Avoid This Popular Superbug Breeding Substance!

By Lee Bellinger / December 26, 2013


Is This Popular Product Breeding Superbugs?

Protect your family from sanitizer-bred superbugs Hand sanitizers have been on the market for 40 years. In the last ten, they’ve become ubiquitous. People carry them in their pockets and purses. Pump dispensers are popping up in bathrooms along side the hand dryers. Grocery stores offer courtesy hand sanitizer pumps at their points of entry.

Soft gel sanitizers have long offered the promise of protection from germs… a way to get your hands clean if you don’t have access to soap and water (or even if you do)… a defense against cold and flu season.

And now, 40 years later, the FDA is wondering if maybe hand sanitizers are harming the people that use them and contributing to one of the most frightening public health crises we’ve ever faced.

Stretching the Truth

The manufacturers of hand sanitizers have gone the route of snake oil salesmen when it comes to marketing their products. They’ve made claims that hand sanitizers prevent MRSA – the deadly drug-resistant form of the bacteria that causes staph infections – E.coli, and the swine flu. But the FDA says they do not have a reasonable basis on which to make these claims.

Manufacturers also vehemently deny that their sanitizers can contribute to bacterial mutations that lead to new drug-resistant superbugs. They claim the products are alcohol-based and so don’t cause mutations in bacteria. However, hand sanitizers also contain the antibacterial agent triclosan, and that’s the source of concern both for health problems and bacterial mutations.

Product That Promises Better Health
Presents Multiple Health Hazards

Triclosan is widely used to prevent bacterial contamination. It’s the active ingredient not only in hand sanitizer but in widely used antibacterial soaps. It shows up in toys, clothes, kitchenware, toothpaste, deodorants, toothpastes, mouthwashes, cleaning supplies and many other products. In short, it’s everywhere.

Some of the possible health problems linked to triclosan include heart problems, hormone imbalances, and even early puberty in children. But the biggest worry is a possible link between triclosan and the development of drug-resistant bacteria. Once again, our overuse of a compound that can kill bacteria is slowly rendering the compound useless, leaving us less equipped to fight superbugs over the long run.

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

It’s too little too late, but this is what the FDA has to say about triclosan. They haven’t yet determined that it’s hazardous to human health, but based on recent studies they’re investigating further. (So is the EPA, for that matter.) They’re not formally recommending that you discontinue use of your favorite hand sanitizer, but they do state that they don’t have any evidence that hand sanitizers or antibacterial soaps containing triclosan provide any health benefits at all.

The bottom line: You can do just as much to protect yourself from germs and the spread of disease by using good old-fashioned soap and water. By making the switch from an antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer to a more traditional soap, you may be protecting yourself from heart problems and hormone disruptions and you may also be doing your small part to fight drug-resistant bacteria.

You might save money, too – a 10-pack of Ivory soap is under forty cents a bar at big-box stores, while a single 35-oz. dispenser of antibacterial body wash is nearly $6.

When you’re in a situation where you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, but need to get them clean, try carrying alcohol-based hand wipes that are free of triclosan. Washing your hands the way your mother taught you to offers a lot of potential benefits and zero drawbacks.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Use plain old soap and water when you can, and turn to alcohol-based hand wipes when you can’t.


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