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Antibacterial soaps: Too much to handle?

As early as 2005, the FDA raised concerns that the widespread use of antibiotics and antibacterial products (originally developed for hospitals but then marketed to the germ-averse public) can lead to drug-resistant bacteria—otherwise known as “superbugs.” That, combined with concerns about a link with allergies and asthma (the theory: less exposure to routine bacteria can weaken immune systems), concerns many holistic doctors. “Antimicrobial or antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers are not necessary, and in fact are potentially very hazardous. They impair the vital levels of bacteria on the skin, which provide a protective barrier and help prevent infection,” says Lawrence B. Palevsky, MD, president of the Holistic Pediatric Association. These products also contain chemicals such as triclosan, which has been linked to cancer and immune disorders. Studies have also shown that antibacterial soap is no more effective than regular soap for killing bad bacteria, so only use when soap and water aren’t available.

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