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Antibacterial hand soap: the real danger lurking in school bathrooms

Anti-bacterial hand soap is a dirty clean says Health Canada.

It's school time again, and in every school bathroom across Vancouver you can hear the "splat, splat" sound of anti-bacterial soap squirting onto the hands of school children everywhere. So, what does the science tell us about anti-bacterial products and just how bad are they for our children's health?


1. Triclosan. Triclosan is the anti-bacterial property used in many hand soaps (76 per cent of 395 commercial soaps examined in a recent EWG report). It is a pesticide that’s closely related to the super-toxin, dioxin, and has been linked to liver and thyroid problems and to endocrine (hormone development) disorders in children. Triclosan has also been found to have particularly toxic effects on aquatic life. Studies have found that nearly 75 per cent of Americans have traces of Triclosan in their urine. The European Union labels triclosan: “irritating to eyes and skin; dangerous fro the environment; very toxic to aquatic organisms.”  

2. Antibacterial resistance. Antibacterial products (including those just made with alcohol) increase your risk (and the general population’s risk) of antibiotic resistance. As antibacterial products become more common, some germs can become immune to them and develop into “superbugs” that aren’t easily treated with even high doses of antibiotic.

3. Innefective. Studies show that washing your hands with regular soap and water is as effective (and has fewer health effects) than washing with those labeled antibacterial.

"But, isn't my kid supposed to wash her hands? What can I do instead?"

Health Canada recommends fighting antibiotic resistance through preventitive behaviors: and avoiding "the use of antibacterial soap and 'bacteria-fighting' cleaning products. These products kill 'good' bacteria which fight bad germs. Cleaning with soap and water, or disinfecting surfaces with a solution of water and vinegar or household bleach is adequate.”

All in all, anti-bacterial products are proven problems. If your child's school is using anti-bacterial products, try giving them this article and encourage them to try a safer alternative. A REALLY affordable alternative is to use Dr. Bronners castile soap mixed 50/50 with water, put it into a foaming hand pump. It works, its completely safe (even if a kid eats it) and it costs a fraction of the health offending anti-bacterial products on the market.

The studies:

"The American Medical Association, Food and Drug Administration, and at least 40 researchers from 13 universities and public institutions worldwide have concluded that antimicrobial soap does not work any better than plain soap and water at preventing the spread of infections or reducing bacteria on the skin, according to our survey of the scientific literature and published agency positions." Environmental Working Group Report. Visit to view some juicy excerpts from their report.


Article by Manda Aufochs Gillespie, The Green Mama. Want to know what today's science says about making your child's daycare, school, or home safer and healthier? Visit 

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock. Image by Jaimie Duplass.

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