Washing hands frequently with regular soap and water is always best to keep everyone in your family healthy. Unfortunately, many soaps and hand sanitizers have added ingredients that can do more harm than good. Here are some tips to get clear on what is truly clean.
Antimicrobial and antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers are made with a range of synthetic chemical agents that destroy or reduce the growth of microbes and bacteria. That sounds like a good thing, but these chemicals, such as parabens, usually work by releasing formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Plus, these agents have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, reproductive and neurological impairments as well as contribute to allergies, asthma, and eczema. Another major reason to avoid these is the overuse of antimicrobial and antibacterial chemicals is spawning new “superbugs” that don’t respond to antibiotics when we really need them. Health concerns about one antibacterial agent, triclosan, led to it being banned from soaps in 2016 though it is still in other personal care products.
Synthetic fragrances contain phthalates to boost the scent’s staying power. The phthalate commonly used in fragrance products is diethyl phthalate (DEP). Sometimes this won’t be listed, so be cautious if you simply see “fragrance” as an ingredient. Some phthalates are known to be carcinogenic and others may contribute to reproductive and neurodevelopmental problems.
Two pure essential oils, tea tree and lavender, often added for fragrance, have been shown to have estrogenic properties that could impact reproductive health. It is not known whether or not other essential oils have these properties because they have not been tested to date.
Just plain ol’ soap. No fragrances. No other synthetic chemicals. Simply soap made with ingredients such as food grade olive, coconut, sweet almond or caster oils, shea butter, goats milk, honey and natural pigments. If you can buy organic, all the better.
Check out the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for handwashing.
Connect with one of these Environmental Health Advocacy Organizations: