In recent years there has been an explosion of cleaning products guaranteeing to kill 99.9% of all germs in a ludicrously short time frame. You’ve seen them lined up on your supermarket shelves and you’ve probably bought some. Why wouldn’t you? The ads show loving mothers cleaning all those bacteria infested surfaces while smiling children wash their hands with the gentlest of hand-wash soaps in the background. Only a bad parent would dare not to provide this wonderful protection to their family.
But wait up a minute! How clever can you get! Those amazing cleaners must be able to tell the good bacteria from the bad since surely, we wouldn’t want to be killing all the beneficial bacteria that are thriving on our skin – and yes, our kitchen benches.
And should we assume that none of the bad bacteria escape, only to mutate into a resistant strain similar to the Golden Staph that is plaguing hospitals around the world? Unfortunately, the reality is very different.
No, those cleaners don’t differentiate between good and bad bacteria. And no, they don’t kill all the bad bacteria. And, in fact, they don’t kill any viruses! But what they are helping to kill is the natural resistance and immunity that we large organisms once had. We’re cleaning ourselves and our homes into a possible future catastrophe.
These cleaning products very often contain a chemical compound called triclosan. Triclosan was originally created for cleaning hospital floors. Yes, the same hospitals that now house the super-bug, Staphylococcus Aureus.
According to epidemiologist Allison Aiello, “Triclosan has a specific inhibitory target in bacteria similar to some antibiotics.” What that means to you and me is that bacteria that have been exposed to triclosan – but not killed, have the potential to develop mutations that firstly, make them immune to triclosan but more dangerously can even develop cross-resistance to other antibiotics!
This happens because antibacterial products like triclosan and another widely used compound, triclocarban, leave a residue behind. That residue may not be sufficient to kill all the bacteria that come in contact with it. The surviving bacteria, those with the strongest natural resistance to triclosan and similar compounds, now go on to multiply, spreading that resistance into future generations.
But wait, there’s more!
Both triclosan and triclocarban are present in 60 percent of America’s streams and rivers, according to environmental scientist Rolf Halden, co-founder of the Center for Water and Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The trail is obvious… we use them in our homes and workplaces, the residue is sent through the sewerage system, combined with the sewerage sludge which is then used as farm fertilizer. From there it’s just a short journey to our waterways.
So what should you be using? Well, the good news is that good old fashioned soap and water actually do as good a job on your hands and skin as the antibacterial products. In fact, vigorous scrubbing under running water even removes viruses.
There are also many excellent herbal soaps that are very effective without any harsh chemicals. They also have a totally natural fragrance instead of the compounded fragrance most soaps contain.
You might also consider hand wash products containing tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is naturally anti-bacterial. Tea tree oil creams are great for use on cuts and grazes and anyone who has used a tea tree oil deodorant will know just how the good oil is at controlling bacteria!
But what about your kitchen benches? Some bacteria are dangerous! Salmonella and meningitis are two that come to mind in a hurry. Good, commonsense hygiene is the answer in most cases. For most situations, any good kitchen detergent will do the job for you. If you’re really worried, alcohol wipes are extremely effective at killing both bacteria and viruses without leaving any residue behind!
And a final thought on handwashing… you’re probably doing it wrong! Watch this video to find out why!
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