If you needed more proof that so-called bacteria-killing cleaners are a big, fat scam, here you go: a new study says antibacterial soap may actually lead to a staph infection. No, soap doesn’t actually contain Staphylococcus aureus, but it does contain a chemical that leaves your nose more vulnerable to this bacteria, making you more likely to get sick.
The offending chemical is called triclosan, and it’s not just in antibacterial soap. The ingredient is added to toothpaste and makeup, and has been included in hundreds of different products in its 40-year existence. It’s even in some types of clothing. Odds are pretty good that triclosan is already in your system, since 41 percent of adults tested positive for it, according to Raw Story.
The study, which was published in The American Society for Microbiology’s mBio journal, showed that more than half of people who tested positive for triclosan also tested positive for staph bacteria in the nasal passages. They also found that when staph bacteria were exposed to triclosan, they were better at sticking to proteins in human cells, making them even more dangerous.
According to senior study author Blaise Boles, “[Triclosan is] really common in hand soaps, toothpastes and mouthwashes but there’s no evidence it does a better job than regular soap. This agent may have unintended consequences in our bodies. It could promote S. aureus nasal colonization, putting some people at increased risk for infection.”
This is especially bad news for people with weakened immune systems, or anyone due for surgery. Staph infections can be lethal in these cases, even though it poses less of a threat for healthy folks. If you’ve ever read the insert that comes in tampon boxes, you’ve probably heard of toxic shock syndrome, which is the same type of infection.
Even if you don’t use antibacterial soap or anything else with triclosan, you may still be exposed. The chemical is probably polluting the environment, and scientists have found it in urine semen and breast milk.
I’m not exactly surprised by this news, considering we already know how added chemicals can hurt us. But you can bet I’m going to be extra careful about the soap I buy from now on.