Monday, July 11, 2016

Green Living Column: Alternatives to Antibacterial Soap



Maybe you’ve heard how the overuse of antibiotics is causing the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” The same can be said of antibacterial products such as antibacterial shower gel, hand soap and hand sanitisers.


As epidemiologist Allison Aiello explains to Scientific American, most antibacterial soaps contain the ingredient triclosan. When the bacteria are exposed to triclosan, they can undergo genetic mutations. These same mutations not only protect them from triclosan (or whatever other antibacterial product you are using), but can make them more difficult to kill with antibiotics!


In animal studies like this one at the Journal of Toxicological Sciences it was found that triclosan altered the hormones in rats, causing an estrogenic effect. The FDA says that animal studies aren’t always indicative of what will happen to humans, but even they recommend reviewing the risks further and say that concerned consumers should use regular soap instead.


A study, reported in Smithsonian Magazine, found that triclosan “hinders human muscle contractions at the cellular level and inhibits normal muscle functioning in both fish and mice.” The researchers weren’t even exposing cells to super-high dosages during the study. They used levels of triclosan similar to what we experience every day.


Further, there are a lot of theories about why allergies are on the rise, and one is that the overly-sanitized environment that we live in is harming the development of our immune system. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology furthers this theory. It found that the triclosan commonly found in antibacterial products causes mutations, which may lead to food allergies.


Antibacterial soap is not only bad for human health, it is bad for the environment. When you rinse your hands of antibacterial soap, it doesn’t just disappear down the drain. It gets into our environment and could have disastrous consequences. As Eco Watch reports, the antibacterial chemicals in soap aren’t completely removed by wastewater treatment facilities. The chemicals get transferred into sludge, which is then put on agricultural land and could contaminate surface water.


Several studies,including one published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and another in the Oxford Journal of Infectious Disease, have looked into the effectiveness of antibacterial soaps. It was reported that antimicrobial soap was “no more effective than plain soap” at preventing infectious illness.  This shouldn’t be too surprising considering that most diseases are caused by viruses and NOT bacteria, so antibacterial soap isn’t effective.


Alternatives to antibacterial soap include the following:


1. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. It’s not the type of soap that prevents the spread of bacteria and viruses, it’s how you wash your hands. Lather up and rub hands together vigorously for 20 seconds. Don’t forget the spaces between your fingers, your wrists, and under your nails. Rinse thoroughly. Dry hands well and launder hand towels often in hot water.


2. Choose a nontoxic cleaner: Shop for biodegradable, plant-based, environmentally-friendly cleaners that do not contain triclosan, triclocarbon, chlorine, lye, glycol ethers, and ammonia. You don't need these strong disinfectants to get surfaces clean.


3. Disinfect objects that come into contact with raw meat, fish, or eggs, such as cutting boards and utensils. Scrub cutting boards and wipe down kitchen counters with a non-toxic disinfectant. You can find such cleaning products in the organic products sections, or make your own by using white vinegar followed by 3% hydrogen peroxide (available at the pharmacy). Keep the liquids handy in separate spray bottles. It doesn't matter which one you use first, but both are much more effective than either one alone.


 4. Disinfect sponges and kitchen rags by microwaving them for 30 seconds on high power if dry, longer if wet -- sponges for one minute, and rags for three minutes.


5. Clean bathrooms and kitchen hard surfaces using a store-bought non-toxic cleaning solution, or make your own. Borax disinfects but is milder than bleach. It’s also effective on mildew, especially combined with vinegar. You can make a cleaning solution by adding 1/2 cup of each to a gallon of water. Hydrogen peroxide will reduce microorganisms on surfaces. A 50/50 vinegar/water solution will clean tile, counters, cabinet fronts and soap scum in the shower. A baking soda and water paste will clean stuck on gunk in the shower and tub (use vinegar instead of water for really tough stains). Many people find the smell of vinegar to be unpleasant. You can mask the smell by adding a few drops of essential oils (e.g. lavender, tea tree or citronella) to the vinegar.


6. Add essential oils to your natural cleaning products as a disinfectant and deodorant. A few drops of mint or lavender oil added to a natural plant-based hand soap will add fragrance and kill any possible bacteria. Citronella or lemongrass oil added to a liquid cleaning solution can keep insects off your floor and kitchen counters. Tea tree oil will inhibit fungal growth in your bathroom and kitchen tile grout and around your sink. Add a little lavender oil to your laundry detergent to make your clothes smell fresh without resorting to harmful chemicals and artificial fragrances. 







No comments: