When my sister told me she had to go the doctor this past week because of an injury to her leg, I immediately thought how wonderful it was that she had antibiotics to rely upon. The doctor took one look at the inflammation and prescribed them. And fortunately it worked.
Today, roughly 50 years after antiobiotics were introduced, antiobiotic resistance unfortunately is a serious problem. Because of our fear of “germs” there is a much greater use of a variety of antibacterial agents designed to remove disease-causing organisms from external surfaces such as kitchen counters, bathroom facilities, doorknobs, even our remotes to the tv. Sponges have been impregnated with antibacterials and our soaps, detergents and other cleaning and health care products include them as well.
Certain additives may actually contribute to the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” and therefore leave us more vulnerable to disease. One of these agents, triclosane, originated as a pre-surgical scrubbing agent in 1972, and now appears in over 70% of soaps and a myriad of consumer products. The reports of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections rise with the rise of this infatuation with antimicrobial products.
According to Donald M. Poretz, a professor of internal medicine at Georgetown University in Washington, D.D., as well as the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, based in Arlington, VA, “It is a huge problem. We are finding microbes that are resistant to every antibiotic we have access to.”
Going back to my sister’s prescription, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one-third of the 150 million antibiotic prescriptions written annually by doctors are unnecessary. Of course we all are aware of the heavy dosages of antibiotics fed to livestock to keep them healthy. I do believe my sister’s diagnosis was correct; her leg is now healing and I am happy she found relief. But I am concerned about that one-third unnecessary prescriptions issued.
An interesting CNN episode also addressed the problems of these chemicals: http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/health/2010/04/12/am.intv.janssen.antibacterials.cnn
Dr. Sarah Janssen’s concern, as stated in the above video, is that these chemicals are actually interfering with hormones in the human system, in particular thyroid hormones and sex hormones. Triclosan also interferes with testosterone. Long term effects include behavioral changes, learning abnormalities, and longterm effects on reproductive health, including fertitlity. Hormone-dependent cancers like breast cancer and prostate cancer is boosted by tricloban because it boosts sex hormones.
We are spending one billion dollars a year on products ranging from children’s toys to chopsticks that are treated with germ-fighting compounds. Business is booming for the market of antibacterial products. According to Mintel, a market research firm, the U.S. has led the way to introducing more of these products and we are buying them. 75% of American adults “prefer antibacterial and germ-killing cleaning products.” Surveys of the U.S. population from ages 6 to over 65 have found residues of triclosan in over three-quarters of people.
It is time to avoid any antibacterial or antimicrobial which contain triclosan or triciocarbon which are found in soaps, gels, cleansers, tooth paste, cosmetics, personal care products, etc. Read labels before purchasing such items. Remove the “bad” bacteria with good hand-washing practice using a non-bactericidal soap and water. The American Medical Association recommends not using antibacterial soap at home.
I was introduced many years ago to a soap-free alternative, biodegradable and pH balanced, that our family uses for the face and body. We have chosen to use cleaning products that break down easily instead of hanging out in the ground for hundreds of years, and contain no phosphates, borates, nitrates, or other stuff the planet doesn’t appreciate. Ask me about these products. It helps make your family safer and healthier as well as the planet.