The People's Perspective on Medicine

Antibacterial Compound May Contribute to Allergies

Scientists at Johns Hopkins have found that children with high levels of antibacterial compounds in their urine also have high levels of IgE antibodies in their blood. IgE antibodies are a marker for immune system reactivity that is most often seen as allergy.
When the immune system becomes hypervigilant and churns out lots of IgE, it may mistakenly defend the child against foods, pollen, pet dander and other common substances. The scientists found that triclosan and certain parabens were the only antimicrobial compounds studied that were linked with high IgE. Kids with the most urinary triclosan were twice as likely to have allergies as those with the lowest levels.
So far, the connection is only an association. The scientists plan to do a long-term study on babies exposed to antibacterial products to determine the risk of developing allergies.

[Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, online June 18, 2012]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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The article above suggests that Triclosan and parabens may cause high IgE levels (often a sign of allergy).
However, it may be that sensitive children (those who are atopic or allergic by nature) are using more products containing Triclosan and parabens than their counterparts who do not have underlying sensitivities.
As a dermatologist, I do find that children who are atopic/allergic have more skincare products used on their skin, both prescription and nonprescription. Many skin products contain parabens. Also these sensitive children often have parents who are more concerned about their children’s skincare and I could see that handwashing would be more stressed in their families. Triclosan is a common antibacterial ingredient in antibacterial cleansing products.
So it is possible that “allergic” patients are simply exposed to more Triclosan and parabens, not that these products cause allergy.
I am waiting for studies to show us know the true explanation. In the meantime, I personally feel that man uses far too many chemicals casually. I personally avoid chemicals when possible, and choose products with simple, less potentially toxic ingredients. It takes many years for toxicities to show up when new chemicals are introduced.

Can “hand sanitizers” be causing these high IgE levels?

Highly, highly recommend “Justinian’s Flea” pp.167-184 for a lay person’s digest and comprehensible explanation of bacteria from its “genesis” to our present day-or at least
Justinian’s time. Also, check out NPR’s SciFri June 15 program
“Bacterial Armor Imaged, Down to the Details”.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^