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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Good Bacteria, Bad Bacteria. By Simple Organic

Simple Living Media is a new media company put together to help people live simply. The people behind Simple Organic (a division of Simple Living) put together a great, earth freindly post on hand washing. Let's face it, good hand washing is a healthy choice that should never be neglected. But did you know that it can be "green" too? Check out the details below.

"In our germ phobic society, cleaning products score big when they advertise their dominion over bacteria. Except, of course, until you know better. I’m strongly opposed to the war on “germs,” particularly the industry’s greatest weapon: triclosan. You, too, will be armed and dangerous against bacterial resistance by the time you reach the comments section.
Photo by KatieW

How Soap Works
In the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you I’m a science geek. Please don’t hold that against me. I often tell my children that washing your hands is a team sport: water, soap, and friction all play a role. Water has two unique properties: cohesion and adhesion. Cohesion, also called surface tension, means water sticks to itself. Imagine a water droplet that doesn’t fall apart. Adhesion means it sticks to other things. Think of that droplet balancing just so on your fingertip. Water naturally adheres to the dirt and germs on your hands and washes them away.
Soap exploits both of water’s properties, enhancing its cleaning power. Most soap contains “surfactants“, a short word for “surface active agents” which break the cohesion of water molecules and reduce the surface tension of water. Soap becomes the connection between the bewildered water molecules and the oil on your hands, increasing the adhesive power. Now the water is more effective– the water, not the soap! – and can wash away not only standard issue dirt and germs but also oil and grease.

Friction is a key element. Once soap and water have done their job, the hand-washer just needs to scrub to dislodge the particles of gunk from their hands and send everything on its merry way down the drain, carried by the adhesion of water and the surfactant of soap.
The bottom line? Washing with water and rubbing well are the most important players on the clean team. Soap is just a great assistant coach. Your real goal in washing your hands is to get the germs and dirt off your hands and down the drain.

What is Triclosan?
Nicole recently taught us to read ingredients and check the Skin Deep cosmetic safety database for safer personal care products. What about the simple act of washing our hands – and our children’s hands? You can start by memorizing this word: Triclosan.
Triclosan is the bacteria-killing chemical added to antibacterial soaps (triclocarbon for bar soaps). It causes problems because it won’t only kill the bad bacteria, but also any of the trillions of good bacteria inside your body. Even worse, it works not by pure force, but by coaxing bacteria not to reproduce.

Why is Triclosan Dangerous?
It contributes to bacterial resistance, meaning that the more we fight bacteria, the more the bacteria understand how we’re fighting them and the stronger they become. The handful of bacteria who survive their fight with triclosan may mutate and become “super bugs” who aren’t affected by the chemical.
It is a probable hormone disruptor.
It stays on hands up to four hours after washing.
It is not completely removed by wastewater treatment processes, so it ends up in both our lakes and drinking water. As a result, it is killing aquatic life and has been found in human breastmilk. It’s classified as a pesticide.
Our grandmothers knew to let their little boys (girls too!) play in the dirt. Exposure to bacteria is good for you and helps your children’s systems build up fortifications against the really bad germs. Remember this: We don’t need to kill our bacteria, but simply move them out of our houses.

What Can I Do About It?
1. Read labels.
Triclosan is almost always listed as an “active ingredient.” You’ll also find it in some sneaky places, like antiperspirant and toothpaste. Seek out the triclosan-free alternatives.
2. Just use soap.
Regular hand soap is becoming harder to find, but it’s still mainstream, as is plain old dish soap. Go totally green and use castile soap and water in a foaming soap dispenser for hand-washing. A few tablespoons of soap will do it.
3. Wash hands well and often.
Teach your kids to sing “Happy Birthday” or the ABCs twice through while scrubbing firmly under running water…with some soap.
4. Avoid products with microban too.
Rubber ducks, cutting boards, and steering wheels may all be casualties in the germ wars. Microban, a brand-name version of triclosan, makes solid items antibacterial. Just don’t buy them.

What Works Best: Antibacterial or Plain Old Soap?
You decide:
AMA (American Medical Association) recommended no antibacterial soap for household use back in 2002!
FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is conducting research on the topic.
CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends plain soap and water for handwashing.
EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) also recommends simple soap and “good old-fashioned scrubbing”.
Many of the diseases we’re worried about when we scrub our hands are viral, and triclosan doesn’t touch them anyway.
Triclosan needs two full minutes to work. Who washes their hands that long?
With all those letters of the alphabet weighing in on the topic, why haven’t you heard about the AMA’s and CDC’s recommendations on ABC, CBS, or CNN? It’s not good marketing. Plain old soap doesn’t have selling pizzazz..."

Leave a comment here about your thoughts on antibacterial products!
Want to know more? Check it out here. This portion was re-posted with permission from Simple Organic.


Kayla said...

I loved reading this from Simple Organic! I have been reading lots of things from Simple Organic and other sources lately on the dangers we face when using certain every day products and also not eating organically. This article from Simple Organic really opened my eyes:

The more I learn, the more scared I get! How far do we really need to go when it comes to using natural products and eating organics? I don't want to go broke but isn't our health more important?

KelleyS said...

Dear Kayla;
It can be very confusing and expensive to learn more and become more passionate about healthy choices. Here is the good news: we can choose our priorities when it comes to using natural products. It isn't always easy to find a natural solution, but once you do find it, it can be a lot cheaper (olive oil and castor oil are a lot cheaper than the Cetaphil I used to use). Organic milk isn't an option in our house, but hormone free milk and eggs are then a priority, as is making and growing what we can. The more you can learn, the better your choices will long as you can keep your self from panicking while you learn!