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Washing Your Hands With an Antibacterial Soap Can Be Very Toxic

I posted an alarming report two years ago about the dangers of using the chlorinated water that comes from your tap with antimicrobial soaps and cleaners that produced significant quantities of the cancer-causing substance chloroform.

With the rise of products in the marketplace -- even antibacterial socks -- the same research team tackled the problem again, this time comparing soaps, body washes and lotions with and without triclosan to determine the toxic load on humans. No surprise, all the products containing triclosan that came in contact with chlorinated water produced chloroform or other chlorinated byproducts.

But that's not all...

Because water temperatures, chlorination and the antibacterial products used can vary based on the locale, it's hard for scientists to predict the exact amount of chloroform to which a patient may be exposed. That said, the use of triclosan in some conditions can expand a patient's exposure to chloroform by as much as 40 percent. Also, products that contain bisulfide and ammonium maintained triclosan levels longer (both compounds can more easily scavenge chlorine).

It's surprising the problem still exists, considering the American Medical Association's very public slam against antibacterial soaps seven years ago and undisputed evidence that nothing works better, when it comes to hand washing, than plain soap and water.

Environmental Science & Technology February 28, 2007

Environmental Science & Technology Online February 28, 2007