Being Too Clean May Be Bad for Your Health

The overuse of antibacterial products has been linked to allergies

Could your fear of germs be making you sick? A new study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health suggests that people who frequently use antibacterial products with triclosan are more likely to suffer from allergies and hay fever. Triclosan, found in antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, diaper bags, pens and medical devices, is a type of chemical known as an endocrine-disrupting compound (EDC), which according  the study’s authors, is thought to endanger our health by mimicking our body’s hormones, including our immune system.

The study found that people 18 and under with higher levels of triclosan were more likely to report allergies and hay fever than those with lower levels of triclosan exposure. According to researchers, the chemical may alter the microorganisms that we’re exposed to in a way that affects the immune system’s development.

According to the study’s lead investigator, Allison Aiello, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, their findings seem to support the “hygiene hypothesis,” which maintains that living in a very clean or overly hygienic environment is bad for the immune system. If your immune system isn’t exposed to germs, it can’t develop the proper defense against them.

"It is possible that a person can be too clean for their own good," said Aiello in a written statement.

While that is good news for those of us who think we have to keep our homes squeaky clean, I think I’ll be keeping this study from my husband. After all, he would rather wade through tumbleweeds of dog hair than spend 15 minutes vacuuming and thinks a spit shine is a perfectly acceptable way to clean a kitchen counter. So the last thing he needs is another reason to avoid housework. Not that you need to leave your house in a state of disarray to keep your immune system strong. Instead, say the study’s authors, it might be safer to choose hand soaps and cleaning products without antibacterial chemicals.

Do you insist on using antibacterial products? Chime in below.

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