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Bursting the bubble on super soaps

September 03, 2007

I would like to thank Chris Woolston for the excellent article "The Real Dirt on Super Soaps" [The Healthy Skeptic, Aug. 27], which reports that antibacterial soaps offer no benefit over regular soaps for the average consumer.

While it's unclear whether the chemicals contained in antibacterial soaps cause antibiotic-resistant germs in settings other than the research laboratory, consumers may also want to consider what happens to these antimicrobial products after they are washed down the drain. Due to their widespread use and incomplete removal from wastewater during municipal sewage treatment, the active ingredients in antibacterial soaps (mostly triclosan and triclocarban) are now detectable in the majority of streams and rivers across the country.

Understanding the potential human and environmental health risks from these inadvertent pollutants will require many years of study. However, a more productive use of U.S. tax dollars would be to practice pollution prevention and avoid these unnecessary, persistent and potentially harmful chemicals.

Rolf Halden


Halden is an assistant professor in the department of environmental health sciences and the Center for Water and Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


Hurrah for Chris Woolston's article debunking the antibacterial soap myth. It's obvious that the new "protect your family" antibacterial products -- from soaps to triclosan-impregnated products to the myriad disposable wipes -- are designed to scare the consumer rather than address any real need . . . except for bigger profit margins. Ammonia and a scrubby will clean anything short of an operating room.

One thing I'd add to Woolston's article: The important thing is to spend a decent amount of time scrubbing your hands.

A few years ago, health officials recommended washing for as long as it took to whistle "Yankee Doodle." "O Canada" and "De Colores" would also work.

John Rabe

Cypress Park

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