Last week I shared my mission to get disinfectant wipes out of the classroom. My reasoning focuses on the fact that conventional wipes are harmful to the classroom environment and can affect the health of both students and teachers.
What I didn’t include is how unnecessary and often ineffective they are. Plus they’re just wasteful and bad for the environment.
Our society has become antibacterial crazy. The truth is that some bacteria are good and we shouldn’t be killing all bacteria everywhere! Before we had antibacterial products, people used hot soap and water, alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide to clean. Soap helps loosen and lift dirt, while alcohol and hydrogen peroxide damage cell structures and quickly evaporate.
Antibacterial products, on the other hand, leave a residue on the surface. This may foster the development of resistant bacteria - plus studies show that we just don’t need antibacterial agents.
"Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water."
- Janet Woodcock, director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research
Until 2016, antibacterial soaps used a chemical called triclosan as an active ingredient. In September 2016, the FDA announced a ban on the use of triclosan, and 18 other antiseptics, in antibacterial hand soaps.
What is triclosan?
Triclosan is an antiseptic. It is a registered pesticide, that bioaccumulates (builds up in the body).
Why is triclosan bad?
Animal studies show that exposure to high does of triclosan are associated with a decrease in hormone levels and may interfere with the normal function of the endocrine system.
There is evidence that triclosan exposure contributes to making antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Imported triclosan (from India and China) may contain dioxins linked to cancer and endocrine-disruption.
Yes, the FDA banned the use of triclosan in hand soaps, but it can still be found in other other items like acne treatment, deodorant, cosmetics, and other items which aren’t under the FDA’s jurisdiction like:
Unfortunately, with these types of items there are no labeling requirements to inform consumers that they include antibacterial agents.
But back to cleaning...
All of this information is a good reminder to use the appropriate cleaning agent for the job. We shouldn’t be using harsh chemicals when soap and water will do.
It’s also a good reminder that we need to be vigilant consumers. Antibacterial products became very popular. When they came on the scene you could see the word “antibacterial” highlighted everywhere. Perhaps this was because of the scare tactics used in marketing resulting in increased sales. As I often tell my daughters - don’t to believe everything you see on the screen.