Science Rocks

Everything about our preschool program at the CLC is carefully planned and designed to support your child physically, emotionally, and academically, from the books in our library, songs we sing, organic snacks served to each, to the hand soup the children use.

When we opened in 2003, we knew we wanted to provide a safe and healthy environment for our children. We knew that children share germs and there’s little we can do to prevent them from doing so. In fact, exposure to germs (viruses and bacteria) is how we strengthen our immune systems. Some exposures lead to illness; some don’t as our bodies learn to protect against harmful invaders.

Frequent washing of hands is the best way to avoid getting sick. At the CLC we wash hands frequently and teach our students to do the same. We have carefully chosen to use soap that is not an antibacterial soup. There is a misconception that using an antibacterial hand soup will protect against harmful bacteria better than a soup that does not contain an antibacterial agent.

A recent student, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2011, studied the effectiveness of hand washing with water alone, hand washing with a non-antibacterial soup, and not washing hands at all

“The results demonstrate that handwashing with non-antibacterial soup is much more effective in removing bacteria from hands than handwashing with water only. Although handwashing with water alone reduced the presence of bacteria on hands substantially, the study supports the policy of many current hand hygiene campaigns promoting the use of soap.”

These results, while reassuring to those trapped in a restroom with no soap, didn’t directly compare anti-bacterial soap and regular soap. It did cite a study in which researchers did just that. This study, “The effect of handwashing on child health: A randomized controlled trial,” was published in The Lancet, July 2005.

In included 906 households in 25 neighborhoods in Pakistan over the course of a year. All soap users were given soap and instructed in its use the non-soap users were given school supplies. The soap users were divided into either anti-bacterial soap users or plain soap users. The bars of soap were identical in look and fragrance and replaced regularly. Repeated visits by the investigators reinforced bathing and handwashing in the soap-user families.

It is a fascinating and detailed 9-page study, which I recommend reading. The interpretation of the data are:

  • “Handwashing with soap prevents the two clinical syndromes that cause the largest number of childhood deaths globally – namely diarhoea and acute lower respiratory infections. Handwashing with daily bathing also prevents impetigo.”
  • A good argument for frequent handwashing wherever you live. The study also found that, “Incidence of disease did not differ significantly between households given plain soap compared to those given antibacterial soap.”
  • We are all interested in healthy children. We wash our hands. Water and friction alone washes away many infectious agents. Plain soap added to the water washes away even more and is no better than antibacterial soap in preventing illness.
  • In the interest of doing the best we can to prevent illness and to promote healthy habits, we will continue to use plain hand soap at the CLC.

For further reading on the subject:

  • “FDA Taking a Closer Look at ‘Antibacterial’ Soap,” FDA Consumer Updates, 12/16/13.
  • “Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky?”, Oxford Journals, Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2007.
  • “5 Reasons to skip antibacterial soap and its risks.” Consumer Reports, 10/15/14.
  • “Does Antibacterial Soap do More Harm Than Good?” Tirumalai Kamala, Immunologist, PhD, Forbes, 8/2/16.
  • “It’s Probably Best to Avoid Antibacterial Soaps,” Julie Beck, The Atlantic, 8/12/14.
  • “Antibacterial Soap is a Wash, Study Finds,” Alice Park, TIME, 9/16/15.