As we head into winter and cold season here in New Jersey it's tempting to pull out the antibacterial soaps. Triclosan was originally created for the health care setting. It’s an antibacterial (see my 10/9 post), a disinfectant and it has some antiviral and antifungal properties too. As its use moved into the mainstream, it’s been insidiously added to all kinds of products. It's a dangerous substance and you want to eliminate it from your home.
According to the material safety data Sheet (MSDS) for triclosan it’s irritating to the eyes and skin, very toxic to aquatic organisms, to the extent that it may cause long term adverse effects in the aquatic environment. Is this something you want to wash your hands with?
Ok, so it’s diluted in some pretty smelling hand soap. The soap a million other people are using. All of it going down the drain. Maybe into a water system or a well, probably into an aquifer or the local stream. Over 95% of triclosan uses are in homes or offices where the disposal is down the drain. Triclosan is not removed in water treatment plants. Gee, could this be related to the reduced aquatic life we’re experiencing? Then we drink the water.
More from the MSDS- Keep away from foodstuffs in transport, environmentally hazardous (marine pollutant). Ok, enough of this. It’s a hazardous chemical, a pesticide. After it’s mixed into a product for daily use it’s still a problem. It’s been strongly linked (not conclusively mind you) to abnormalities in the endocrine system, birth defects, extreme weight loss, skin irritation (well, the manufacturer’s MSDS does say that, doesn’t it?), allergy susceptibility, antibiotic resistance , etc. etc.
Scrutinize your disinfectants, hand soaps, mouthwash and body care products. It may also be labeled as Microban® in plastics or clothing, or Biofresh ® in acrylic.
Here’s just a sampling of the common products that contain triclosan:
Softsoap® Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap
Dial® Liquid Soap
Clearasil® Daily Face Wash;
pHisoderm Antibacterial Skin
CVS Antibacterial Soap
Dawn® Complete Antibacterial Dish Liquid,
Ajax® Antibacterial Dish Liquid.
Reach® Antibacterial Toothbrush
Garden Botanika® Powder Foundation;
Jason Natural Cosmetics
Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor
Old Spice High Endurance Stick Deodorant,
Right Guard Sport Deodorant
It is also in products labelled as "Microban"
For a more extensive list see Beyond Pesticides.
As we head into the winter cold season in New Jersey the use of antibiotics increases. Antibiotics are for bacterial infections, however they are often used , to no avail, for viruses. We are all susceptible to viruses. Viruses, such as the common cold, are not affected by antibiotics (or antimicrobials or antibacterials).
The problem started when we began using antibiotics for viruses as well as bacterial infections. Sometimes it was a physician prescribing it, other times it was a worried patient insisting on it, either way; we began using antibiotics when they were of no use.
We also began adding antibiotics to the feed fed to the livestock we eat. Not sick livestock mind you, but as a preventative measure. Some fruit trees are even treated with them. Beef, chicken, pork and other meats now contain antibiotic resistant bacteria. Then in recent years, it became a marketing tool to add antimicrobials and antibacterials to the plastic in toys, hand soaps, soap detergents, even appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines. Ugh, it makes me queasy just typing this. What on earth were we thinking!
I wonder if the increase in antibiotic use has contributed to the increase in digestive problems and immune disorders. We need bacteria to help us develop immune resistance, and the good bacteria in our stomachs – lactobacillus for example - are necessary for proper digestion. I see a post on good bacteria in my future.
What we have accomplished is to create bacteria that are now unaffected by antibiotics, so we don’t have a medication to help us fight them. These bacteria are called “antibiotic resistant”, or superbugs. If we continue with this behavior, we may find ourselves back in the day of having no recourse against bacterial infections. According to Stuart B. Levy, MD, president of the Alliance for Prudent Use of Antibiotics, we now have people dying of infections they would have survived five years ago.
Dr. Levy confirms what other experts are saying- we have to stop the use of antibiotics for purposes other than absolute necessity in order the reverse this path.
Here’s what we must do:
Don’t use antibacterial or antimicrobial soaps, shampoos, toys, appliances or other products unless prescribed by a Dr. for a particular condition.
Don’t bully your Dr. into giving you an antibiotic against their advice. Dr’s are human too, and it’s still happening despite the push to decrease antibiotic use. Similarly, don’t accept an antibiotic prescription if you’ve been told your problem is viral. Get a second opinion if you’re unsure.
Do spread the word. Gently offer alternatives when you see unnecessary antimicrobials being used.
Do use your antibiotic prescription as directed. Yes, you do need to take it for 10 days (or 21, or whatever’s prescribed). If you stop too soon, the stronger bacteria haven’t been killed off yet. That’s why folks frequently get sick again when they don’t finish all the medication. AND –you’ve just contributed to creating a super bug.
Do serve your family meat and poultry that are antibiotic free.
Watch for my upcoming posting on the dangers of the antibacterial Triclosan - you probably have some in your home and office right now.
For more information:
Alliance for Prudent Use of Antibiotics
Keep Antibiotics Working
National Institutes of Health
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