Antibacterial Products Are Not Safe For Pregnant Women (Or Anyone, Really), So Lay Off the Stuff

Usually, it's fine to assume that people who are freaking out over common household items have bought into some crazy, anti-scientific theory of why they're dangerous. But occasionally, ordinary household items really do turn out to be bad for you: a new study has just been released, and it suggests that antibacterial products are not safe for pregnant women (or anyone, really).

The two most popular antibacterial compounds used in commercially-available products are called "triclosan" and "triclocarban." Researchers at Arizona State University have found that triclosan and triclocarban are present not only in the urine of pregnant women, but also in the umbilical cord blood of their fetuses — meaning that the blood barrier between mother and baby does not filter out these antibacterial compounds.

That wouldn't be concerning on its own, except that previously triclosan has been linked to bone deformities in rodents, as reported by Bloomberg. These deformities suggest that triclosan exposure may disrupt mammals' endocrine systems and cause growth problems. Triclosan has also been linked to breast cancer cell growth, in laboratory environments and in mice. Although this evidence isn't strictly conclusive that antibacterial products will harm you, you should stop covering yourself in antibacterial body washes from head to toe: since there's no real benefit to constant antibacterial cleansing, it's not worth even small health risks.

In addition to the obvious hand soaps and hand sanitizers, antibacterial ingredients can now be found in many more surprising "antimicrobial" consumer goods: hair brushes, school supplies, toys, paint, and more. With these endless possibilities for exposure, it's best for your sanity to focus only on the most high-impact: stuff you put straight onto your skin.

Remember: for most of human history, no one had any antibacterial soaps or gels at all (and living conditions were much dirtier, to boot). The FDA is reviewing evidence regarding antibacterial product safety, in considering whether to regulate these substances more strictly. Some companies have begun to voluntarily discontinue their antibacterial products in the meantime (behold, the "invisible hand" of the marketplace). In any case, though, a well-kept immune system will do more for you than a gallon of antibacterials anyways — so eat well, get enough rest, and manage stress.

Image: Stephen Kirschenmann /