Thursday, January 1, 2009

Antibacterial Soap Debate

The buzz about antibacterial soap and antibacterial products may not be new to many of us. After a discussion with a friend today, I decided to spend some time reading up on the topic. I found that the debate continues.

First, I'll touch base with my own opinions. I have never been a huge believer in the frequent use of antibiotics, except for treating serious illnesses. Nor have I had a love for antibacterial products. I wasn't a mother that rushed her little ones to the doctor at the first sign of a runny nose. Nor do I do the same with my animals. I am the resident farm vet, except for extreme cases (such as a needed c-section). I found that both of my children were, and my animals are, much healthier with a less frequent use of antibiotics. However, I do think antibiotics are very much needed, when prescribed properly.

It is said that Americans spend approximately one million dollars a year on antibacterial soaps and cleaning agents. The benefit of these products are that they can wipe out bad bacteria on contact, however, they do not kill viruses, and they do not prevent all infectious illnesses.

With the antibacterial product debate, as with many studies, due to variables in the testing environment, the results are often not conclusive. Some of the debate evolves around the theory that antibacterial products wipe out both the good and bad bacteria. Other studies indicate that bad bacteria have become stronger by the overuse of antibiotics, drugs, and antibacterial products.

Caution must be taken when using antibacterial products such as dish detergent and cleaning agents. A antibacterial dish detergent will help kill bacteria on contact, but it does not prevent growth once bacteria touches the washed dishes (by unclean hands or surfaces). When using antibacterial cleaning agents, the instructions need to be read. Surprisingly, some of the cleaning products may need to be left on the surface for a length of time (to kill the bacteria) before wiping the product from the treated surface. As many of us probably have, I normally spray and wipe, without a second thought given to reading the instructions on the bottle!

It is also said when antibacterial products enter waste water that is to be treated, the treatment becomes more difficult because the good bacteria that is needed to break down the bad bacteria can be killed by the run off from antibacterial products. I would imagine this would not be good for a septic system as well. It has also been said that marine animals may suffer from antibacterial product run off as well.

This was interesting reading for the day. Not surprising, yet very informative. My overall conclusion is, a bar of soap, non-antibacterial, used to wash hands frequently, results in ridding the hands of surface viruses and bacteria. The "uglies" are sent down the drain, and the environment is much safer. Why mess with the doubt?

10 comments:

Amy said...

This is interesting stuff!

Shiloh Prairie Farm said...

For what it is worth when the Purell hand sanitizer stuff first came out I was working in a nursing home as a CNA. We were instructed by the nurses not to use it on a routine bases because as we were told it was no substitute for good old hand washing and if used constantly might lose its effectiveness. We were told to save it for when we thought it was really needed. The best defense against illness is good, proper hand washing.

Mary @ Annie's Goat Hill said...

I know! Some of it I had picked up on before, bits and pieces. Then I decided to sit down and do some serious reading and research. Amazing what we learn.

Mary @ Annie's Goat Hill said...

Jenn, that is interesting! Soap and water, back to the original (more than) usefulness of it, and washing correctly.

Joanna said...

I just learned something in 2009! Thanks.

I put in a soap order but yes, wish I could try lotion too.

KathyB. said...

You have written about a subject I have thought about off and on for a long time. I did not go for all the anti-bacterial soaps and lotions either, avoid antibiotics for routine illnesses and infections and do not give my livestock antibiotics. I think we are all healthier for it, and many of the outbreaks of serious illnesses all seem to boil down to someone not washing up properly, which all the news I have seen lately insists just plain old fashioned soap and hot water, plus a very good scrubbing will take care of. Thanks for some thought provoking writing !

Hidden Brook Farm said...

Good post. Can remember when getting dirty was good for you, and the soap for really dirty hands was Lava.

Lomond Soap said...

Have to say that all through my childhood I was covered in mud and dirt. I was never in a rush to have a bath and there certainly were no antibacterial wipes, washes etc near me. Didn't do me any harm. People hear bacteria and think "that's bad" it's the same over this side of the pond. Good hand washing is all that's required (with good soap preferably)
Another fab post Annie :D

Sandy said...

I agree totally with you about anti-bacterial soap. It's hard to convince others of this though.

Mary @ Annie's Goat Hill said...

I share the info with my closest friends. Everyone does what they think is right, but I find this issue interesting!