Just last week I noticed an ad on TV for a new anti-bacterial version of a well known brand of dish washing liquid. It’s another example of how detergent manufacturers are using fear tactics to sell products, in spite of clear evidence that the antibacterial ingredients in the products are seriously bad for our health and the environment . Over the last few years we have been bombarded with ads implying that we are bad parents if we don’t protect our children by using these chemicals.
Ever stop to think that generations grew up happily, and healthily, without them?
Good old fashioned soap does a very good job of killing germs, as Florence Nightingale showed! Teaching our kids to wash their hands properly is vital, no one denies that. However teaching them that only antibacterial soaps are any good is nonsense and leads to all kinds of problems. The ingredients in antibacterial hand cleaners, bath soaps, and now dish washing liquid, not only pose serious health risks, they are also extremely bad for the environment.
So Bad that the FDA has recently banned them in the USA!1
Let’s take a good hard look at the facts and try to forget the hype, starting with what the latest research is telling us about their effect on health.
There are a number of studies, from the USA, Europe, Australia and China,2,3 showing that children who grow up in rural areas and play outside, in the dirt, have far less risk of allergies, asthma and respiratory problems. There are even studies showing benefits for adults working on farms.4
This is because our immune systems develop, and are strengthened, by exposure to germs. We are gifted with an incredibly complex and efficient inner wisdom that, on exposure to a germ, has the ability to produce antibodies to destroy that germ. Even more amazing is the fact that, next time we’re exposed to the germ, our immune system remembers and deals with it even more quickly. However if our immune systems are never exposed to germs, they never develop to their full potential. Just like a muscle exercised strengthens and grows, our immune systems develop and strengthen on exposure to germs. The old adage of ‘use it or lose it’ holds good for our immune systems just as much as it does for our muscles. Even more scary is a study that shows that these antibacterial compounds can actually damage muscle function in children!5
So spraying, wiping and washing everything in our homes with antibacterial cleaners isn’t the answer. Normal good hygiene is all that’s needed.
The next thing to consider is the germs themselves. Every organism in the universe has a mission to survive and multiply. Constantly bombarding germs with antibacterial agents forces them to mutate and become resistant, resulting in stronger and more deadly versions of themselves. We’ve all heard of ‘superbugs’ in hospitals and drug resistant diseases like TB. Well the same thing is happening in our homes, due to the overuse of antibacterial soaps and cleaners!6
Then there’s the damage to the environment. There are numerous studies showing how these antibacterial compounds are getting into our rivers and oceans and disrupting ecosystems.7 They damage natural flora and fauna and are causing enormous damage to our planet. In one study, earthworms exposed to triclosan, for example, showed accumulation of the chemical by a factor of 2700 percent!7 These compounds are wiping out sensitive creatures in nature and no one has any idea what the long term implications for our planet are.
So the bottom line is – antibacterial soaps, wipes, hand cleaners and dishwashers don’t actually work better than good, old fashioned soap and water. Save money, the planet and, most importantly, your family’s health and stop buying them.