Health 7: Antibacterial Chemical in Consumer Products Causes More Harm by Making Bacteria Stronger


Store shelves are stocked with products that promise to kill bacteria.  Many people buy soaps or other items looking for the word ‘antibacterial’ on labels to protect themselves and their families from germs that make them sick.  But new research at Washington University in St. Louis finds how a chemical that’s supposed to kill bacteria is actually making them stronger and more capable of surviving antibiotic treatment. 

Triclosan is the active ingredient responsible for an antibacterial property marketed by companies.  It’s been added to toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetics and even to clothing, baby toys and credit cards with the intention of reducing or preventing bacterial growth. 

In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cited both safety concerns and lack of efficacy when it recommended against adding triclosan to consumer soaps.  Since then, many companies replaced triclosan with other antibacterial active ingredients.  But experts warn consumers to make sure triclosan isn’t in the products they buy, as not all companies were willing and the guidelines have not discouraged companies from adding it to other products.

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