Now that we’re heading into the “cold and flu season”, you may be thinking of stocking up on hand sanitizers, disinfecting sprays and antibacterial wipes to keep germs away from your kids. If so, you may want to re-think this plan. These items are not necessary, and there may be unintended consequences from using them.
Overuse of antibacterial household products can lead to antibiotic resistance. This means more powerful bugs that antibiotics are no longer able to deal with. In addition, these antibacterial chemicals can harm the “good” germs that play an important role in protecting your children from infection. And if you go overboard with too much cleanliness, this can disrupt the development of your child’s immune system, which depends on germ exposure to mature, making your child more susceptible to allergies.
Do these antibacterial products work?
There’s no evidence that the products containing these chemicals give us any health benefits or have any effect on viral infectious diseases such as cold or flu.
But they ARE being absorbed into our bodies. And all these chemicals are constantly being washed down the drain, into our lakes, rivers and water supplies.
Dr. Stuart B. Levy, of the Tufts University School of Medicine, warns about antibacterial household products:
“The recent entry of products containing antibacterial agents into healthy households has escalated from a few dozen products in the mid-1990s to more than 700 today. Antibacterial products were developed and have been successfully used to prevent transmission of disease-causing microorganisms among patients, particularly in hospitals. They are now being added to products used in healthy households, even though an added health benefit has not been demonstrated. Scientists are concerned that the antibacterial agents will select bacteria resistant to them and cross-resistant to antibiotics. Moreover, if they alter a person’s microflora, they may negatively affect the normal maturation of the T helper cell response of the immune system to commensal flora antigens; this change could lead to a greater chance of allergies in children. As with antibiotics, prudent use of these products is urged. Their designated purpose is to protect vulnerable patients.”
The following report from Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides goes into detail about common antibacterial agents in hundreds of consumer products. There’s a list of products containing these chemicals, including toys. The report also provides alternatives and the proper way to wash hands.
View the report here:
You don’t have to try to kill the germs, just wash them away with nontoxic soap and water. This is the best way to prevent exposure while keeping your children’s environment healthy.