Are Antibacterial Cleansers Safe?

Dr. Bill Lasley and his research partner, Dr. Chen, at the University of California, Davis (UCD), are actively researching endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are substances that are present naturally, or are manufactured products, that have the potential to exert a hormonal effect. Usually these substances and products are intended for different use (in this case to remove infectious germs). However, the researchers also discovered that these substances have the potential to mimic hormonal activity, causing disruption of the endocrine hormones. This is concerning, because we encounter many of these substances every day without being aware of their potential effect to our hormonal balance.

To Dr. Lasley’s and Dr. Chen’s surprise, they found that a very common compound “tricocarban” (TCC), the common antibacterial agent placed in soap and other cleansing byproducts (i.e. lotions, wipes and other sanitizing agents), has an androgenic effect. Androgens are present in both men and women, however when excess levels are present in women they can experience excessive hair growth, irregular menstrual periods, deepening of the voice, infertility and obesity in men androgen excess can cause enlargement of testosterone-dependent organs, such as the prostate. Triclosan (TCS), another common antibacterial additive, has also been found to display the same problematic properties.

These substances are used extensively, despite recommendations from the 2005 FDA’s Advisory Panel on Nonprescription Drugs, who states that these compounds have no added benefit in reducing infection rates over the use of traditional soap and water. However, antibacterial product marketing accounts for approximately 1 billion dollars in profit to the industry annually.

As reproductive health professionals, we are concerned of the impact that TCC and TCS has on fertility however more research is needed. Washing hands, with traditional soap and water, vigorously for 30 seconds (the time it takes to sing “happy birthday” twice) does not affect hormonal balance and is just as effective as any antibacterial cleanser.

This information was obtained from the University of California – Davis (2007, December 8). Antibacterial Chemical Disrupts Hormone