The chances are that you probably own antibacterial cleaners, whether they are in the form of hand soap or cleaners for your kitchen and bathroom. But are these cleaners actually doing more harm than good?
Why Do We Need to Kill Bacteria?
It’s true that some bacteria can cause disease, illness and food poisoning. Many antibacterial cleaners promise to kill around 99% of bacteria, which helps to explain why they are so popular. After all, we all want to protect ourselves and our family from getting ill.
So Why Are Antibacterial Cleaners Bad for Our Health?
Unfortunately, antibacterial cleaners aren’t as good for us as they may seem. In the short term, their ingredients are known to irritate the skin (this is more of a problem with those that have been developed for cleaning purposes).
The FDA is currently looking into two of the major ingredients of antibacterial products: triclosan and/or triclocarban. Triclosan and triclocarban are antibacterial agents. The evidence suggests triclosan and triclocarban may have a harmful effect on humans. Specifically, laboratory studies show that triclosan and triclocarban disrupt hormones and can encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria (superbugs).
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council:
Triclosan has been associated with lower levels of thyroid hormone and testosterone, which could result in altered behavior, learning disabilities, or infertility. Triclocarban has been shown to artificially amplify the effects of sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, which could promote the growth of breast and prostate cancer.
Interestingly, the FDA has also stated that there are no extra health benefits to using antibacterial soaps over regular soap and water.
Another long term result of using antibacterial products is that they make bacteria more resistant. This means that, over time, these antibacterial products will no longer be able to kill the germs they set out to kill in the first place.
The truth is that you don’t need to make your home sterile to protect yourself and your family. Human beings in fact need a small amount of constant exposure to bacteria in order to keep our immune systems functioning properly.
Bacteria is all around us, and being exposed to small amounts of it is what our body needs in order to build up its defenses against stronger bacteria. Studies have shown that sterile environments in childhood can actually lead to more allergies and other problems later in life.
The American Medical Associated (AMA) has warned against extensive use of such antibacterial cleaners for these reasons. When it comes to killing germs, simple measures like thoroughly washing your hands often (with traditional rather than antibacterial soap) are a good way to protect against germs.