Are Antibacterial Products Doing More Harm Than Good?
- Posted by CERC India
- Posted in Press Releases
Press Release:In the backdrop of a renewed swineflu threat, Leading consumer rights organisation Consumer Education & Research Society (CERS), Ahmedabad and its international partner organisation CHOICE, Australia explore the health hype surrounding antibacterial cleaners
â€¢ Antibacterial agents donâ€™t care which bacteria they kill, and that can have serious consequences.
â€¢ Extensive use of handwashing products and cleaners containing biocides could contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains
NEW DELHI, April 6th 2012.
As the threat of Swine-flu rears its ugly head again, itâ€™s time to look at the most touted redeemers of the disease â€“ antibacterial products. Riding the scare of an impending swine flu epidemic across the globe, the demand for antibacterial products has increased exponentially over the last 2 years. Even in India, consumers are making a beeline to buy antibacterial products to eliminate germs from their homes, to protect themselves and their families from sickness. Antibacterials such as triclosan are now being added to an increasing number of personal and home care products. The effort may be well-intentioned, but could the overuse of antibacterial products be doing more harm than good?
In order to debunk the myths and set the record straight on the usefulness of antibacterials, Consumer Education & Research Society (CERS), Indiaâ€™s largest consumer rights body, and its international partner organisation CHOICE, Australia looked deeper to discover a few startling facts. The investigation by CHOICE, Australia revealed:
â€¢ While antibacterial soaps and cleansers are needed in healthcare set-ups like clinics and hospitals; they provide little benefit in our homes.
â€¢ Antibacterials do not distinguish between harmful and beneficial bacteria. Overuse of such products can actually destroy the concentration of beneficial bacteria, which is vital for preserving human health.
â€¢ Antibacterials are no better than soap and water, and that using them might contribute to antibiotic resistance and reducing their effectiveness in hospitals.
â€¢ Triclosan â€“ the most common antibacterial ingredient may be an endocrine disrupter as it interferes with both thyroid and sex hormones. Its widespread use has led to it being detected in human blood and breast milk.
â€¢ Most consumer hand sanitizers claim to kill 99.9% of germs, but the accuracy of this claim is highly dependent on the ingredients and how the product is used.
CERS approached some leading manufacturers of antibacterial products in India like Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), Colgate Palmolive (India) Limited and Reckitt Benickiser (India) Limited whose products claim to provide germ protection, seeking their views on this worldwide concern and the steps they propose to stop the use of antibacterials in their products. Reckitt Benickiser (India) Limited did not respond, while the other companies were non-committal and were unable to provide definite responses.
While antibacterial soaps and cleaners are needed in a healthcare setting, they provide little benefit in our homes. Next time youâ€™re in the cleaning products aisle and looking for germ eradicator, take a moment to consider the ingredients of what you buy.
Antibacterials have their place in certain circumstances, but as most of them are no better than soap and water, why take the chance that using them might be contributing to antibiotic resistance or reducing their effectiveness in hospitals? Not buying them can save you a few rupees too.
For further information please contact
Ms. Pritee Shah,CGM, CERC (o) 079 -27489945/46
ANNEXURE : Know the Action and Content before you use
Bacterial Equilibrium : Antibacterial agents donâ€™t care which bacteria they kill, and that can have serious consequences. The mechanism for disturbing good versus bad bacteria has to do with selection. The antibacterial products inhibit growth of susceptible and harmless strains of bacteria while not affecting resistant strains that may be infectious.
Antibiotic Resistance : Along with the overuse of antibiotics, the extensive use of handwashing products and cleaners containing biocides could contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains and ultimately reduce the efficacy of prescription antibiotics. If antibacterials are included in consumer products at sub-lethal concentrations, for instance, they create the perfect environment for the evolution of resistant strains. Antibacterials should be limited to use in healthcare settings, where they are used under optimal conditions to protect against infection. Antibacterial use in the home may make them less effective in healthcare environments, where they are needed most.
Soap & Water: Many of the antibacterial products we find in the supermarket are no more effective than soap and water. Although soap doesnâ€™t actually kill all bacteria, what it does quite effectively is lift dirt off the skin and other surfaces, so dirt and bacteria can be easily rinsed away. In fact, scientists have demonstrated that washing hands with plain old soap is just as effective at reducing bacterial load as washing with antibacterial soap. And, this time-honoured approach has the added bonus of not disturbing the balance of good and bad bacteria.
Many studies have shown that the use of antibacterials does not reduce infection rates in healthy households, as many of the common illnesses you need to worry about are caused by viruses, not bacteria.
The Allergy Link : Health scientists have suggested that our war on bacteria may be partially responsible for the increase in rhinitis and allergic asthma in children. Based on studies showing a lower incidence of allergic disease in children who grow up in large families, attend childcare or have pets, the current consensus is that exposure to microbes as a child plays an important role in regulating the immune system.
Triclosan : One of the most common antibacterials to be added to household products is triclosan (or triclocarbon). Triclosan is a highly effective agent against harmful organisms, but there is concern that it could also pose a risk to our health and the environment. Animal studies have indicated that it may be an endocrine disruptor as it interferes with both thyroid and sex hormones. Since humans have similar hormone systems to other animals, these chemicals may also be affecting us in similar ways. Triclosan has also been detected in human blood and breast milk, and blood levels spike after using antibacterial soaps and toothpaste containing the chemical.
Hand Sanitizers : Many consumer hand sanitizer do not state the alcohol content, which must be between 60% and 80% to be effective. Most of these products claim to kill 99.9% of germs, but the accuracy of this claim is highly dependent on the ingredients and how the product is used. Alcohol sanitizers do not protect you from everything. The microbe – Clostridium difficile, for example, is responsible for many instances of diarrhea and its spores are not affected by alcohol-based rubs, so prevention requires soap, water and scrubbing.