Antibacterials in Personal Care Products Linked to Higher Allergy Risk for Children

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Need another reason to avoid antibacterial soaps and other antibacterial products? According to new research from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, exposure to some very common antibacterial chemicals and preservatives found in soap, toothpaste, mouthwash and other personal-care products may place your little one at a higher risk of developing many food and environmental allergies. The new research, published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, was complied via existing data regarding 860 children ages 6 to 18. The Johns Hopkins researchers looked at how urinary levels of triclosan and parabens, both of which disrupt the endocrine system, are associated with allergic sensitization. According to lead investigator Jessica Savage, M.D., M.H.S., the researchers “Saw a link between level of exposure, measured by the amount of antimicrobial agents in the urine, and allergy risk, indicated by circulating antibodies to specific allergens.” Savage also notes, “The link between allergy risk and antimicrobial exposure suggests that these agents may disrupt the delicate balance between beneficial and bad bacteria in the body and lead to immune system dysregulation, which in turn raises the risk of allergies.

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In general terms this study shows that if a child is exposed to antibacterial chemicals found in everyday products, they may be more prone to developing various food and environmental allergies. The research team first zeroed in on seven ingredients previously shown to disrupt endocrine function in past studies including bisphenol A, triclosan, benzophenone-3 and propyl, methyl, butyl and ethyl parabens, found in personal-hygiene products and some foods and medications. Kids with the highest urine levels of triclosan also had the highest levels of food IgE antibodies, thus, the highest allergy risk. Children with the highest urinary levels of parabens were more likely to have levels of IgE antibodies linked to environmental allergens like pollen and pet dander. The researchers also found that male children were more affected by triclosan levels and when exposed were more likely to be food sensitized than female children. Oddly, only triclosan and propyl and butyl parabens (all have antimicrobial properties) were the only ingredients  associated with increased allergy risk in this study. Finally, the researchers note that although these findings are telling, the research doesn’t officially show that antibacterials and preservatives themselves cause the allergies, but do suggest that these ingredients may play a role in immune system development. In any case, this study offers one more great reason to wash up with plain ol’ soap vs. antibacterial soap.

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+ Urinary levels of triclosan and parabens are associated with aeroallergen and food sensitization

Lead Image by Flickr User juhansonin

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