The Age of Cleanliness

Long daily showers, hand sanitizer dispensers, Clorox and Lysol disinfecting wipes on our kid’s back to school shopping lists, meanwhile, evidence is showing that exposure to different types of bacteria, especially early in life, actually help our immune systems to develop. Kids who grow up in an overly sterile environment have higher rates of allergies and asthma than kids who do not use antibacterial products as much. (1) We are also indoors most of the time. This means we have less contact with beneficial microbes. Remember, it is important to get out of the house and if possible, make contact with soil and vegetation. Getting dirty can be fun, and healthy!

Our choices as consumers make a huge impact on our health. Let’s review some information on cleanliness and common household products.

  • Over washing disrupts the normal flora, which keeps us healthy by competing with harmful organisms.

  • Not all of our body has to be washed as stringently as our hands. 

  • According to the American Medical Association (AMA), there is no evidence that suggests that using antibacterial soap works any more effectively than soap and water. 

  • Hand sanitizers don't prevent hand-to-mouth chemical transfers as well as soap and water, because their purpose is to kill bacteria, not to remove the dust and dirt that can harbor chemicals. (2) Plus, alcohol-based hand sanitizers strip the skin of the outer layer of oil that protects us. (3)

  • Clorox and Lysol disinfecting wipes claim they kill 99.9% of bacteria, but if you read the label, you will find these chemicals must sit on surfaces, wet, for at least 4 minutes to actually work. Even then, the .1% left is the most potentially harmful. These bugs that resist antibacterial agents can actually encourage antibacterial resistance (a.k.a. super-bugs).

  • Many antibacterial products on the market contain ingredients toxic to humans and animals. You can find warnings of irritation from inhalation and skin contact. It is also important to note that due to alcohol content, children can be at risk for alcohol poisoning if any more than a taste of hand sanitizer is ingested. (4)

  • Leave products with fragrance or parfum on the shelf. This ingredient can legally hide an untold number of synthetic chemicals. (2)

  • Triclosan and triclocarban, chemicals used in antibacterial soaps, have been shown to be hormone disruptors, especially in children. They have been banned in many products, but not all. (2)

There are plenty of bio-based home cleaning solutions available. Good quality lime, lemongrass, and tea tree essential oils are just a few of the oils that prevent the growth of bacteria. The sooner we stop purchasing unhealthy, unsafe products; the sooner manufacturers will stop producing them.

By Tara Marie Kotliar

  1. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/336/6080/489

  2. https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2009/10/healthy-home-tip-5-another-reason-wash-those-hands

  3. https://www.purdue.edu/uns/html4ever/000211.Almanza.sanitizers.html

  4. https://aapcc.org/track/hand-sanitizer