Get Down ‘n’ Dirty

Study shows compounds in antibacterial soaps increase allergies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Stop washing your hands so much. It’s making you sick, according to a recent study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

The study suggests washing your hands too much with antibacterial soaps containing triclosan – a chemical compound widely used in antibacterial soaps and toothpaste – may suffer more allergies and exposure to Bisphenol A, which is found in many plastics and as a protective lining in food cans. Both chemicals are environmental toxicants called endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), which are believed to negatively impact human health by mimicking or affecting hormones.

"We found that people over age 18 with higher levels of BPA exposure had higher CMV antibody levels, which suggests their cell-mediated immune system may not be functioning properly," said Erin Rees Clayton, research investigator at the U-M School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

Allergy and hay fever diagnosis and CMV antibodies were used as two separate markers of immune alterations in a sample of U.S. adults and children over the age of 6. Researchers used data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and compared urinary BPA and triclosan with cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibody levels.

"The triclosan findings in the younger age groups may support the 'hygiene hypothesis,' which maintains living in very clean and hygienic environments may impact our exposure to micro-organisms that are beneficial for development of the immune system," said Allison Aiello, associate professor at the U-M School of Public Health and one of the study’s principal investigators.

Researchers concluded that perhaps the quantity and length of time individuals are exposed to BPA may affect immune-system response.

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Review Date: 
November 29, 2010
Last Updated:
December 2, 2010