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Modern Hygiene: Are We Too Clean for Our Own Good?

Asthma and allergies aren't the only concern regarding the hygiene hypothesis. Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), a journal by the United States' National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, found more than 76% of liquid soaps and 30% of bar soaps contain a substance called triclosan. Research has found this substance may be one of the causes of the emergence of superbugs. Superbugs are strains of bacteria that have evolved and morphed so much that they can no longer be killed off by microbial agents. EHP found there have been no scientific data published to support the claim that adding triclosan and other antimicrobial compounds to household products prevents infections. In fact, some studies show the opposite. Substances like triclosan actually kill off sensitive bacteria and leave more resilient bacteria like E. coli and Staphylococcus to morph and become resistant to microbial agents.

According to a recent article in Prevention magazine, not only is triclosan found in soap, deodorant, toothpaste, and other household products, it is also found in some children's plastic toys and even plastic utensils. Triclosan and other antibacterial agents have been used in hospitals, for food preparation in restaurants, and in homes for many years, but it is only recently that scientists have found how it acts on bacteria. While some scientists argue that these studies on triclosan are inaccurate because they have been done in controlled laboratory settings and are not consistent with everyday life, others validate the cause for concern because of the pervasiveness of this substance, particularly in antibacterial soaps. EHP believes that further surveillance of triclosan resistance is necessary.



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