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The Antibacterial Generation

The Antibacterial Generation

Recently I shared an article on Facebook from The Guardian. “Antibacterial soap with triclosan 'no better at killing germs' – study,” where researchers say that washing your hands with antibacterial soap is not much better at killing germs than regular soap.

The authors of the report published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy found that when it comes to everyday hand-washing there is no significant difference between plain soap and antibacterial soap in terms of killing bacteria.  

Over the years our obsession with antibacterial soap and antibacterial products in general has flourished and there are a huge number of products on the market to ‘safeguard against germs.’

Triclosan was first introduced as an antibacterial agent in the 1970’s and is used in a wide range of products. Studies have linked triclosan to antibiotic resistance and hormone problems.

Many manufacturers are quietly reformulating their products to remove triclosan but are using triclocarban instead, which is triclosan’s cousin.

Both triclosan and triclocarban are known endocrine disruptors and can interfere with hormones. They may impact male and female hormones like testosterone and oestrogen, and may also affect thyroid systems, which regulate weight and metabolism. For further information visit the Breast Cancer Fund website.

When I first started making soap I conducted some research into soap buying habits one and of the top requirements that people look for when buying soap is antibacterial properties. It seems that we have all been brain washed to think that if we don’t buy antibacterial this, that and the other then there will be an apocalyptic germ outbreak which may signal the end of civilisation. 

It is a known fact that if children are not exposed to low levels of bacteria in their early years, their immune system does not develop properly. It has been proven that childhood exposure to bacteria can help to protect us from eczema, asthma and other health problems.

The hygiene hypothesis dates from 1989 when Professor Strachan published an article in the British Medical Journal which links a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious microbes and parasites to a less robust immune system later in life.

In addition to health concerns, there is significant environmental risk in the over use of antibacterial products. Common household cleaning products can contain toxins that are harmful to ecological balance. The worst offenders are phosphorous (found in dishwasher detergent), nitrogen (in glass, surface and floor cleaners), ammonia (in degreasers) and volatile organic compounds (in disinfectants).

These substances enter the waterways and cause algal bloom which has been observed to cause a wide variety of adverse effects to aquatic organisms.

Natural, homemade cleaners like your Grandparents used – like good old baking soda and white vinegar – have gained popularity in recent years. And of course you can include essential oils for antibacterial properties. The most powerful essential oil for cleaning is tea tree with its antiseptic, antiviral, bactericidal and fungicidal properties. For a simple cleaner combine a few drops of each essential oil with distilled white vinegar and use in a spray bottle.

And as far as hand-washing goes there is nothing wrong with plain soap and water. To make sure you're actually removing the germs when you wash your hands, follow these guidelines:

  • Use warm, running water and soap,
  • Work up a good lather, all the way up to your wrists, scrubbing for at least 15 or 20 seconds (apparently most people only wash for about 6 seconds),
  • Make sure you cover all surfaces, including between your fingers, the backs of your hands, wrists, and around and below your fingernails,
  • Rinse thoroughly under running water.

Don’t be scared of shunning those antibacterial labels on the supermarket shelves. In the long term it will be much better for you and much better for the environment too!

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