Hate to burst your bubble
For years, the antibacterial soap industry as asserted their products kill bacteria and other pathogens more effectively than plain soap and water, that they’re much, much better at preventing illness and the spread of infections over the long haul.
Now the Food and Drug Administration is asking manufacturers to prove it.
This isn’t just another case of concerns about commercial hyperbole. An increasing number of scientists and public health groups fear the antibiotics used in these soaps are promoting resistance in the targeted microbes. Rising antibiotic resistance, however, is just part of the problem. A number of studies have shown that triclosan – a common antibacterial agent in these soaps – may interfere with human hormone activity.
The FDA action follows another bit of recent research news about personal hygiene: Washing your hands in hot water apparently offers no more hygienic benefit than using room temperature water.
A recent Vanderbilt University study found that hot water did not measurably improve the efficacy of the typical hand-washing experience.
“It is true that heat kills bacteria,” said study author Amanda Carrico. “However, the level of heat required to neutralize pathogens is beyond what is considered safe for prolonged human contact.”
The researchers noted too a downside to using all of that hot water to wash our collective hands to no great effect: It requires a lot of energy and significantly adds to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
They estimated that if Americans en mass used tepid water instead of warm or hot, the avoided energy use and prevented greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to the entire output of a nation the size of Barbados.