Anti-microbial Soap? Just Say No!
Sales of anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners are increasing. 75% of American households use these products. So what do they have in common with an elite training camp for terrorists?
Anti-bacterial = Anti-health
Sales of antibacterial soaps and household cleaners continue to rise, but using them may cause more harm than good. In fact, they can expose your family to disease, rather than preventing it. Recent reports have concluded that the main ingredients in antibacterial soap are ineffective against bacteria and even encourage their survival and promulgation.
So why is this and what can you do to keep your home and family safe?
Image courtesy of trekkyandy under the Creative Commons license.
Fight the Enemy Bacteria
Triclosan - our bio-weapon of choice
We all want our kids healthy and free from infectious illnesses and other nasties. We stock our cleaning cabinet with all the necessary weapons to fight those dirty little germs, whose main purpose in life is to cause us horrible, lingering deaths. We are vigilent in our efforts to ward off bacteria, virii and anything else intent on human destruction. But what if you are actually helping the bugs achieve their aims? What if all your weapons of mass bacteria destruction are supplying the little devils with nothing less than an elite training camp? A training camp that weeds out the weak and encourages the strong. A training camp that only breeds the best in class. A training camp that.... wait a minute... how can this be so? After all the label states categorically that the product containes triclosan, which we all know kills 99.9% germs dead. Absolutely. Stone dead. It's so good at what it does that they even add it to chopping boards, matresses, refrigerators and your little soldier's school lunchbox. It's a miracle. Isn't it?
It's all about survival of the fittest
Here are the downsides. Triclosan does kill quite a lot of bacteria. Unfortunately, it only destroys the weaker ones, leaving the stronger sort to continue to wreak havoc. And to breed. And breed they do. All this survival of the fittest thing means that the bacteria are able to mutate, becoming even more resistant to not only triclosan but to other chemicals too, such as alcohol and chlorine (bleach).
Triclosan also slaughters your pet bacteria. Pet bacteria? Yes, your own friendly colonies that live in and on your body. The ones that help protect you against the baddies. Picture them, wagons circled and fires lit, rifles lifted - always ready to fight on your behalf, or rather on behalf on their preferred habitat, i.e. you. Without these pet bacteria, you are even more likely to catch something you'd rather not catch. Think of it this way - you clean your (or your child's) skin with the all-singing, all-dancing antibacterial, antimicrobial soap. There you go, all shiny, sparkling and gorgeous, out into the wild. The first thing that happens is that your exposed skin attracts microbes - bacteria, fungi or protozoans. "Mmm, lovely", they croon, "a new place just made for us. Lets celebrate, have a party and make love". And they do. Very much. Pretty soon (we're talking hours here) your body is host to many new residents and all their relatives... and some of them will be intent on harming you. So rally the troops, circle the wagons! We have protectors. Oh. No, we don't. We annihilated them in that cleansing anti-bacterial soapy shower, remember?
See my point?
Other delightful effects of triclosan are thyroid damage. Explain, please, how triclosan can damage my thyroid, after all, I don't eat the stuff.? Yes, well, you do. It's already in the water. Flushed down the drains, it heads straight for the sewage processing plant and back into the water system. You do know they recycle waste water, don't you? It may be in your nice new chopping board or even your swanky lunch box.
In a recent study on rats, it was discovered that triclosan mimics the hormone, estrogen, bringing puberty on earlier. It was also found to alter testosterone levels, presumably detrimentally. You really don't want triclosan in your life - not on your skin, in your food, your body or in your kids.
Plain ol' Regular Soap
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What steps should we take?
It's easy as 1, 2, 3
1. Stop using and buying products that contain antibacterial anything but please don't throw them down the drain. Leave them locked up somewhere safe or take them to a waste disposal facility. We don't want them in the sewage/water system. Use wooden chopping boards; keep separate ones for raw meat, cooked meat and vegetables. Wooden chopping boards are natural bacteria inhibitors.
2. Use regular soap. The plain old ivory stuff. Do some research into environment-friendly household cleaners made from store-cupboard ingredients like sodium bicarbonate and vinegar. Also essential oils are naturally antimicrobial but don't overdo them.
3. Wash your hands often. A survey of over 7,000 people found that only around half, washed their hands after using the bathroom. People, please! It's fundamental stuff - surely your parents told you to wash your hands? Make sure you train your kids to do the same. Use the same old regular soap. The surfactants contained therein will help remove dirt and germs (not necessarily kill them) and maintain your skin at a healthy level.
Photo courtesy of Arlington County under the Creative Commons license.
Note: Anti-bacterials have their place in certain environments, such as hospitals and food preparation industries.