Alright everyone, before we all lose our minds, lets sit down and discuss this one. There’s been a lot of talk about superbugs recently, and much of it has people very very frightened. Antibiotic resistant infections are raging through hospitals across the civilized world. And a few hospitals in Britain have announced detection of strains of certain STDs that are now resistant to the last new antibiotic medication we have…. New antibiotics are always in development, but the last effective one to be released was quite a while ago. It’s getting harder and harder for us to stay ahead of the germy curve these days, and biologists are spreading their investigations far afield to find the newest anti-biological drug that will stave off killer infections.
This leads us to the home-front. Are certain items in your home adding to this worrisome problem? Is it possible you are pushing human life closer to extinction with each pump of that alcohol gel spout? Well, surprisingly the answer is NO. Lets go ahead and talk about the whys and the what have yous.
First lets decide what we are talking about when we mention hand sanitizer. There’s two main methods of hand cleaning we use on a normal basis: Antibacterial soap, and alcohol hand sanitizer. If you’re anything like me you’ve got both in your home in plenty of convenient locations. But what you may not know is that there’s a big difference in the method of “anti-bacteria” of these two products.
Here’s the complicated bit: Antibacterial soap is found mostly in our kitchens (dish soap) and our bathrooms (hand soap). The most common antibacterial ingredient used in these soaps is Triclosan. Triclosan, while not harmful to humans (that’s why its in soap, people) is a very effective antibacterial agent. In amounts of .1-1% it causes inhibition of fatty acid synthesis…. Fatty wha wha who? Fatty acids are necessary for the continuation of cellular life. The Triclosan in your soap inhibits cells from synthesizing more fatty acid, thus stopping the germ/bacteria from propagating itself. Here’s the problem though…. apparently the germs can get better sometimes. Some of the heartier germs (in recent studies) go on to survive, split, propagate, and move on when you touch that door handle in Macy’s, or put those toaster strudels back on the shelf in Target…
Oh my, you may exclaim! But what about gel hand sanitizers?!? Well that’s where the distinction is! Nearly every bottle of hand sanitizer uses a stable alcohol based gel. And alcohol is very different from Triclosan. While Triclosan is an antibacterial, alcohol is basically a biocide to micro-organisms. There’s no building of a defense. Alcohol actually damages the cell walls of germs and causes them irreparable damage, mayhem, destruction, death. There is no “resistance is futile” moment with this. The germs do not get an opportunity to weather the storm and grow stronger, they are eradicated! So while Triclosan kills bacteria with medicine, alcohol destroys bacteria with poison. It’s done, game over.
So when the time comes to choose a hand cleanser, pump away at your Purel without concern, you aren’t building the superbug of the future, your just destroying the sniffles of today!