Antibacterial Soap Could Harm Babies, Shows Study

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A new study published in the journal Endocrine Reviews has shown that exposure to certain antibacterial soaps could harm nursing babies.

The study, performed by researchers at the University of Tennessee, showed that the survival rates of nursing baby rats fell when they were exposed to triclocarban - a bactericide typically found in antibacterial bar soaps. The chemical is typically absorbed through the skin. The research was presented at the recent 95th Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society.

"People have to weigh their own risks and decide what would be the best route," said Rebekah Kennedy, lead author of the study and an undergraduate at UT . "There's always a time and place for antibacterial bar soaps, such as in health care settings where the chance of infection and transmission is high. For the average person, antibacterial soap is no more effective than regular soap."

The study fed triclocarban to pregnant rats in amounts similar to human blood concentrations. Exposure to triclocarban did not affect the survival rate of baby rats who were only exposed to it in the womb. Baby rats exposed to the chemical through nursing, however, did not survive beyond six days. The study's authors concluded that long-term exposure to triclocarban could affect the early development of human babies. The researchers did not, however, completely condemn the use of antibacterial soap when appropriate.

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