Does Sustainable Living Include Hand Sanitizers?

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What do sustainable living and the antibacterial craze have in common? Not much, in fact not much at all.

The germ phobia has given bacteria a bad name, caused a stir about super bugs, and posed a threat to environmental and personal health. Yet with messaging from reputable organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) promoting clean and healthy homes, the antibacterial market has cashed in. according to the World Antibacterial Treatments Market report, the global antibacterial market was worth $37 billion dollars.

So what now for not just the ethical consumer, but anyone hoping to live a healthy and sustainable life?

Let’s start our sustainable living journey by setting the record straight on bacteria, it’s not all bad! Increasing awareness of the difference between “good” and “bad” bacteria is growing. Our bodies are actually reliant upon certain levels and types of bacteria. That’s why potent antibiotics can make us sicker after wiping out the bacteria we rely on.

In terms of common antibacterial products like household cleaners and hand sanitizers, scientific research deems these products to be equivalent if not lesser alternatives to their predecessors as well as natural competitors (Levy et al 2007).

So if bacteria isn’t all bad for us, what about our homes? according to studies by the CDC, using antibacterial products consistently can create “super” bacteria that is resistant to present antibacterial formulas.

This means higher health risks for our society as a whole, as bacteria strains with short lifespans, continue to out-evolve our “super” cleaners. It is important to keep in mind the limitations of the antibacterial formulas that tout their abilities to kill nearly all bacteria. Antibacterial products are just that, only for bacteria. They do not eliminate the threats of viruses, parasites, and fungi among other health threats. It is not a silver bullet.

What is the hidden risk? Triclosan, the active ingredient in antibacterial products, it threatens your personal health and our environment.

Pediatricians and family doctors alike are concerned about exposure to the chemical and its impact on human development. a Swedish study found that 3 in 5 women’s breast milk contained noticeable levels of Triclosan, and in the US 3/4s of all children and adults over the age of 6 had it in their bloodstream. Triclosan is similar in structure to a common pesticide that is a known toxin to our blood, liver, and kidneys and is also know to accumulate in our fatty tissue. all of these health factors add to our chemical body burden.

  • Mark Spowart

    A writer and photographer, Spowart has publication credits in Canada, United States, Europe and Norway with such publications as The Globe & Mail, The National Post, Sun Media, Canwest News, and Canada News Wire.

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