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Common Cleaning Products May Do More Harm Than Good


A recent study from researchers at the University of Michigan found that certain household cleaning products pose serious human health hazards.  Amid concerns about antibiotic resistance, the study found that widely-available household cleaners are key contributors.


Allison E. Aiello, Ph.D. of the university’s department of epidemiology and her team supplied half of 238 households with antibacterial cleaning products, while giving the other half cleaners without antibacterial ingredients. Researchers cultured the hands of participants before the study began, and again after one year to find how the rate of bacterial growth was affected.
The antibacterial products tested were floor cleaner and surface cleaner with BZK (a quaternary ammonium compound) and liquid hand-washing soap with triclosan, which has been found in as much as 75% of liquid hand soaps sold in the U.S., and is also commonly used in toothpaste, cutting boards and other consumer products.
As part of the study, Dr. Aiello’s team tested bacteria from participants’ hands to find the levels of BZK and triclosan needed for bacteria to grow. At the start of the study, both groups had the same levels.  After one year, hand swabs that came from households using antibacterial cleaning products “had more than twice the odds of developing a high [growing threshold] for triclosan than did isolates from households that did not use products with antibacterial ingredients. At one year, [samples] from households that used antibacterial products also had more than double the likelihood of developing resistance to antibiotics.”
The stark difference in the two groups, and the antibiotic resistance in the antibacterial group show the need to reduce usage of these potent chemicals.  Washing hands with plain soap and water is best, as is cleaning with nontoxic products that do not harm human health.  This is especially true with products used around children and pregnant women, as developing bodies are particularly susceptible to the affects of everyday toxins.

By Erin s. Ihde

Evans, Jeff. Infectious Diseases. "Pediatric News: Cleaning Products Drive Antimicrobial Resistance." August 2008.    





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