In a previous blog, we talked about all of the toxins conventional cleaners bring into your home environment, but how about soap? After all, what could be wrong with good ‘ol soap? It cleans up dirt and germs, so how could that be a bad thing?
Regular soaps often contain chemicals in the form of artificial fragrance and colors. With so many toxins in our environment, do you really want to add more chemicals in the soap you use to clean yourself?
Many people don’t realize that antimicrobial soaps have been around since the 1950’s. Back then, however, they were marketed as “deodorant soaps” that killed the germs that caused body odor. Bar soap brands like Lifebouy and Dial are made of the same ingredients as today’s liquid antibacterial soaps that make the marketing claim they will kill germs on contact.
Antimicrobial soaps contain mostly water, a surfactants, which generate foam, and active ingredients that “kill” bacteria. Soaps commonly use one of a few active ingredients including 3,4,4-trichlorocarbanalide (a.k.a. triclocarban) and 2-hyroxy 2’,4,4’-trichlorodiphenyl (also known as triclosan).
Triclosan & Triclocarban
Triclosan is most commonly found in liquid antibacterial soap, while triclocarban is the active ingredient in antibacterial and deodorant bar soaps. The EPA has registered both chemicals as pesticides, and they have a chemical structure is similar to many hazardous agents including dioxins, PCBs, and even Agent Orange.
These two ingredients have been related to many health problems including:
The chemicals react with chlorine in tap water to produce dioxins. Dioxins are neurotoxins that can cause cancer, nerve disorders, and immune system disorders.
The chemicals are endocrine disrupters, blocking thyroid hormone metabolism and attaching to hormone receptors to block hormones.
According to the EPA, the chemicals can cause developmental and reproductive toxicity.
They are carcinogens.
They contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria that causes infection in humans.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC), in surveys of the American population between the ages of 6 and 65, 75 percent have residues of triclosan in their systems.
You can absorb these toxic chemicals through your skin. In fact, the NDRC reports one study discovered higher levels of triclosan in the breast milk of nursing mothers using antibacterial soaps and other personal care products containing the ingredients. It makes me shudder to think of babies with their immature immune systems consuming these chemicals in their mothers’ milk.
Triclosan and triclocarban are ingredients in many other antimicrobial products, as well, including cutting boards, dish detergent, antibacterial sponges, and many others. If you see them listed as ingredients, don’t buy the product.
One of the chief arguments you’ve most likely heard against antibacterial soaps is their potential to generate antibiotic resistance. While these products alone aren’t the only culprit in allowing bacteria to mutate in order to resist antibiotics, they play a large role along with other factors such as antibiotic overuse. It is estimated antibiotic resistance kills about 60,000 hospitalized people in the United States every year.
Use of such toxic soaps also means that the active chemicals will wind up in the soil and ground water. Triclosan and triclocarban don’t degrade. They remain in the environment for centuries after their use.
Worse, people are being sold a bill of goods when it comes to antibacterial soap. Studies show that the soaps are no more effective than washing with regular soap and hot water because the time they remain in contact with the skin is too short for any benefit. That means we’re polluting the environment and harming our health so that soap companies can sell more product and a higher price by making marketing claims that are, at best, shaky and at worst, deadly.
I know that you want clean hands, clean dishes, and a clean home. The thing is, even when you use antimicrobial compounds in your home, germs remain and that’s a good thing. Living in an environment that contains germs is what builds your immune system. That doesn’t mean I’m telling you not to wash up or eat some grapes without washing your hands after cutting up a raw chicken but you should be smart about what you use when you wash your hands, your face, and the rest of your body in order to avoid toxic build up of dangerous chemicals. Here are some alternatives.
Try a natural soap like Sally B’s hand soap. It is my fave with a great lemongrass scent, and I keep one in the kitchen as well as in the bathroom
Select soaps that have been scented with essential oils, not chemicals
Change conventional shampoos for a natural shampoo such as one by Ojon Ultra Hydrating Shampoo
But What About Germs?
Good news. You don’t need to use toxic soap to build up a resistance to germs. Instead, when you eat a healthy, detoxifying diet such as the one outlined in The Beauty Detox Solution, you are strengthening your immune system, making it much more likely that when you are exposed to germs, you will not get sick. Other tips for supporting immunity: