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Why You Want to Avoid Using Chemical Disinfectants

October 25, 2008 | 54,330 views
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chemical disinfectantsChemicals used to kill bacteria could be making them stronger. Low levels of biocides, which are used in disinfectants and antiseptics to kill microbes, can make the potentially lethal bacterium Staphylococcus aureus remove toxic chemicals more efficiently, potentially making it resistant to being killed by some antibiotics.

Biocides are commonly used in cleaning hospitals and home environments, sterilizing medical equipment and decontaminating skin before surgery. At the correct strength, biocides kill bacteria and other microbes. But if lower levels are used, the bacteria can survive and become resistant to treatment.

Researchers exposed S. aureus taken from the blood of patients to low concentrations of several biocides. Exposure to low concentrations of a variety of biocides resulted in the appearance of resistant mutants.
 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The invention of chemical disinfectants is credited to Joseph Lister, an English surgeon who, back in the late 19th century, used carbolic acid to soak surgical dressings.

This dramatically reduced the number of post-surgical infections, and spurred the eventual widespread use of such disinfectants in hospitals. In case you’re wondering, the mouthwash Listerine was also named after Joseph Lister.

Disinfectants are indeed a necessity in the operating room and in hospitals. But they’re also a classic example of a good thing gone bad. Nowadays many people go on cleaning frenzies in their own homes, using disinfectants on their kitchen countertops, bathrooms, floors and even in their laundry.

And while disinfectant soap may be a good idea before surgery, there’s no need to use it every time you wash your hands or your body.

The Risk of Chemical Disinfectants

When disinfectants are used in low levels, researchers found that they actually make certain bacteria stronger and resistant to antibiotic treatment. This is true even in hospital settings, and certainly applies to the low-level disinfectants many use around their homes.

While building up antibiotic-resistance and thereby contributing to the creation of superbugs, chemical disinfectants disrupt the balance of bacteria, both good and bad, in your home, making it much easier for the bad bacteria to flourish.

Meanwhile, the chemicals themselves are toxic in their own right. For instance Lister’s carbolic acid, now known as phenol, is a common main ingredient in household detergents like Lysol, Pine-Sol and Spic-n-Span. It’s also found in mouthwash.

Phenol is toxic and people who are hypersensitive can experience serious side effects at very low levels. Studies have linked phenols to:

• Damage to your respiratory and circulatory systems
• Heart damage
• Respiratory problems
• Damage to your liver, kidneys and eyes
• Nonyl phenol ethoxylate, a common ingredient in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners, is banned in Europe, and biodegrades slowly into even more toxic compounds

Other chemicals found in household disinfectants include:

• Formaldehyde, found in spray and wick deodorizers, which is a suspected carcinogen
• Petroleum solvents in floor cleaners may damage mucous membranes
• Butyl cellosolve, found in many all-purpose and window cleaners, may damage your kidneys, bone marrow, liver and nervous system
• Triclosan, the active ingredient in most antibacterial products, not only kills bacteria, it also has been shown to kill human cells

Are You Disinfecting Your Way to Poor Health?

In an ironic twist, while you’re disinfecting your home to keep your family safe, you may actually be causing them harm.

If a child is raised in an environment doused in disinfectant soaps and cleansers, given antibiotics that kill off all of the good and bad bacteria in their gut, and kept away from the natural dirt, germs, viruses and other grime of childhood, they are not able to build up resistance to disease, and they are vulnerable to illnesses later in life.

This theory, known as the hygiene hypothesis, is likely one reason why many allergies and immune-system diseases have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in the last few decades.

For instance research has shown that 10 percent of children born into families who used cleaning products such as bleach and carpet cleaners were twice as likely to battle wheezing problems than those who were exposed to cleaning products the least.

Keeping Your Home Clean, Safely

I strongly encourage you to think about ditching all of your chemical disinfectants, including your antibacterial soaps, laundry detergents and bath and kitchen cleansers, in favor of more natural alternatives.

Why?

Because no study has shown that a vigorous program of home disinfection leads to a reduction of illness in a family. Yet, studies have shown that disinfectants can cause you and your family harm.

For those times when you need to do a bit of cleansing, one of the best non-toxic disinfectants is simple soap and water. You can use this for washing your hands, your body and for other household cleansing. Another all-purpose cleanser that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar.

Simply put each liquid into a separate spray bottle, then spray the surface with one, followed by the other.

In tests run at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, pairing the two mists killed virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces when used in this fashion, making this spray combination more effective at killing these potentially lethal bacteria than chlorine bleach or any commercially available kitchen cleaner.

The best results came from using one mist right after the other -- it is 10 times more effective than using either spray by itself and more effective than mixing the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in one sprayer.

Sunlight is another powerful disinfectant, and drying your laundry in the sun is one of the best ways to save energy and wind up with fresh, clean linens and clothing.

So there’s really no need to expose your family to dangerous chemical disinfectants. As an added bonus aside from the health benefits, using this type of natural homemade cleanser is much less expensive than commercial varieties.

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