Is antibacterial soap really necessary?

This post originally ran on It is reposted wtih permission.

antibacterial soapEvery day, millions of people use soaps and body washes that are labeled as being antibacterial or antimicrobial. Much of the proliferation of these products appears to be due to the marketing efforts of their manufacturers. Makers of these products have convinced us that using these products demonstrates concern for our family’s welfare as well as our own personal health.

Despite their widespread use, there is very little evidence to support the use of these products over the time-honored practice of washing with soap and water. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed a ruling that would require manufacturers of these products to demonstrate their safety and effectiveness. If adopted, products that are not shown to be superior to non-antibacterial soaps in preventing human illness or reducing infection will be taken off the market. The proposed rule covers only household soaps and body washes and does not apply to hand sanitizers or antibacterial soaps used in the health care setting.

What makes a soap antibacterial? Most commonly, soaps labeled “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” contain the chemicals triclosan or triclocarban. These are added to the soap in an effort to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. Although they have not been confirmed to be hazardous to humans, recent studies have brought up concerns regarding exposure to these chemicals.

What are the risks of exposure to triclosan? The primary concerns regarding the addition of triclosan to common soap relate to: 1) alteration in hormone levels in animal models and 2) the possibility that use of triclosan could contribute to the development of “super bugs,” bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. In regard to the first issue, some studies have shown that animals exposed to triclosan have developed reduced levels of thyroid hormone and testosterone. The concern regarding the development of resistant bacteria comes from the assumption that antimicrobial chemicals could act much in the same way as antibiotics. It is well known that bacteria exposed to an antibiotic can undergo genetic changes that reduce their susceptibility to the effects of that antibiotic. While triclosan has never conclusively been shown to cause the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, the potential for the emergence of “super bugs” remains a serious concern.

Is there evidence to support the use of triclosan at all? In some instances, triclosan has been shown to be uniquely beneficial. For example, the manufacturers of a popular brand of toothpaste were able to convincingly demonstrate to the FDA that the addition of triclosan was effective in preventing gum infections. Evidence is currently lacking, however, regarding the benefits of triclosan in personal cleansing.

Samaritan Ministries member Rosemarie Norton recently sent this note to us about how essential oils have helped her overcome MRSA lesions. The letter is printed here with Mrs. Norton’s permission.

Hello Samaritan Friends—I have had numerous bouts with MRSA over the last year. I had read about the use of essential oils through Samaritan’s newsletter. At first, I thought it seemed hocus-pocus or silly that something like a smelly oil could help with my plight. Then it got so bad that I decided I would try anything, because all the doctors offered me was antibiotics, and that was after the lesions would get out of control.

English: Glass vial containing Lemongrass Esse...

I began using two things which have helped to stop the MRSA lesions. Both of these methods have to be done when the smallest signs of lesions begin to pop up. After the advice of a naturopath and also a friend who uses the oils, I used lemongrass and Thieves oils internally (several drops in a gel capsule) three times a day. Then topically, I used several oils in rotation on the lesions and any small pimple-like place that begins to pop up (most lesions seem to migrate from the legs and often on the face). The oils I have used are: lemongrass (seems to work the best), melaleuca (tea tree oil), oregano, thieves, and frankincense (also works extremely well). I keep a bottle of lemongrass and tea tree in my purse and in my bathroom. I think that vigilance is key. I often use the oils along with coconut oil, particularly after a bath, so that I get kind of an armor of coverage. This is helpful, particularly after bathing, because then the bacteria is at its weakest. When a lesion gets inflamed beyond the borders of the size of a quarter, then I have to go on an antibiotic and see my infectious disease doctor. But—the oils are keeping the MRSA at bay. My family laughingly says that my perfume is now essential oils. But that’s okay, because they are working.

It is also essential for a staph/MRSA person to be vigilant about washing their hands often and taking care with my own laundry during a breakout, not to mix it with the rest of the family. This has changed many things about my life, but I am trusting the Lord for my future.

I am thankful to Samaritan for being willing to consider alternative methods of health care and to inform us of these. If I had not learned about the oils, for example, I think I may have been in much worse shape. I believe there are many other avenues that we will have to be checking in to in the future, as our old models of health care are changing.

July 2014 Samaritan Ministries newsletter links

  • Samaritan Ministries staffer Rob Waldo asks if we’re listening to God.
  • Worldview writer Rob Slane urges us not to be deceived by what we hear in the news media and how to discern truth.
  • Two of our members, Bob and Barbara Vanden Bosch and Shaun Lewis, are working to bring light to a dark place: the Illinois state capital. Bob is a lobbyist for Biblical values and Shaun leads Bible studies. The two of them also explain why they chose Samaritan to take care of their health care needs.
  • Betsy McCaughey of the Committee to Reduce Infection Death argues that medical facilities are resisting a simple solution to fighting the nation’s No. 1 hospital killer, clostridium difficile. We also talk to a Samaritan member who survived the debilitating illness: Tami Neal offers tip on prevention.
  • Ray King looks at Matthew 5:19 in The Doorpost.

Are you hearing God?

Are you hearing God-

By Rob Waldo

One Sunday after church, my family and I were enjoying the drive home while discussing the sermon we had just heard. Shortly into our drive, my wife, Shelli, started to get a headache and requested that we stop so she could get something to drink. I asked her if she had anything to drink that morning (yes, she had), and then I began explaining the importance of drinking a large glass of water upon waking in the morning. It soon became apparent to me (OK, to be honest, it actually took me a while) that my comments revealed that I hadn’t truly listened to her. Although technically I heard her words, I failed to understand what she was saying, which kept me from giving her the care she needed.

I “heard” her, but I didn’t really hear.

The one who has ears, let him hear

Jesus spoke a lot about hearing, probably more than we realize. This subject is one of Jesus’ most recurring teachings, both in the Gospels and the book of Revelation. He often appends this subject as a single sentence to His other teachings: “The one who has ears, let him hear.”

Jesus was saying that our ability to understand His teachings depends upon whether we have learned to hear. Or, to consider it another way, it is only as we develop the ability to hear that Jesus’ teachings produce fruit in our lives.

If hearing is so important that it is foundational to Jesus’ other teachings, then what does it mean, Biblically, to “hear” and how do we develop “ears that hear”?

Read the rest of this article…

Don’t be deceived

don't be deceived

By Rob Slane

The mainstream media is becoming an increasingly untrustworthy source of news. More and more, they too often serve as mouthpieces of the State, parroting the line from Washington, London, or Berlin, and compiling “facts” that fit the narrative, while omitting other inconvenient facts that don’t. Many “news” stories are so one-sided they could be more properly called editorials.

This should not come as a surprise to us. Western culture has been becoming increasingly secular and hostile to Christian values for the best part of 100 years now. To expect that secular news organizations in secular countries are going to take a principled stand for the truth would be naïve to say the least.

So how do we discern what is and isn’t the truth? Are there ways we can discern what is really happening? Is it even important that we do, or should we just settle for being utterly cynical about everything we hear?

In this article, I want to lay out a few principles for telling truth from falsehood. This is certainly not an exhaustive or fool-proof guide for truth discernment, but I hope it might provide something of a starting point for anyone wanting to take a more discerning look at what is going on in the world right now. Read the rest of this article…