Go Easy on the Anti-Microbial Soap, Says New Study

Hi Readers! I know, I know — there are probably another zillion studies that contradict this one, and there’s a danger in being whipsawed by every new “discovery” but as this one SO dovetails with the Free-Range outlook, who could resist? Voila:

THINK AGAIN ABUOT KEEPING THE LITTLE ONES SO SQUEAKY CLEAN

RESEARCH SUGGESTS THAT EVERYDAY GERMS MAY PREVENT DISEASES IN ADULTHOOD

Yes, so reads the headline on a study just released by Northwestern University that suggests that raising kids in too antiseptic an environment could lead to heart trouble (of all things!) down the way.

The problem seems to be that when the body isn’t exposed to the usual pu-pu platter of pathogens at a young age, the inflammatory system doesn’t develop quite right.

“Contrary to assumptions related to earlier studies, our research suggests that ultra-clean, ultra-hygienic environments early in life may contribute to higher levels of inflammation as an adult, which in turn increases risks for a wide range of diseases,” said Thomas McDade, lead author of the study, associate professor of anthropology in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research.

Relatively speaking, humans only recently have lived in such hyper-hygienic environments, he stressed.

The research suggests that inflammatory systems may need a higher level of exposure to common everyday bacteria and microbes to guide their development. “In other words, inflammatory networks may need the same type of microbial exposures early in life that have been part of the human environment for all of our evolutionary history to function optimally in adulthood,” said McDade, also a member of Northwestern’s Cells to Society (C2S).

This is so interesting not only in terms of chucking the Purell, but also because it is the perfect metaphor for all the other interventions we’ve been sold on — products and programs to “help” our children do what they’ve been doing for millions of years without ’em. Things like baby knee-pads to “help” them crawl. Educational placemats to “help” them get interested in words.  Marionette-like harnesses to “help” them learn to walk. What the whole baby-industrial complex ignores is that evolution has seen to it that our children come pre-equipped for the world.  So they don’t need baby knee pads — they have baby fat on their knees. They don’t need flash cards at birth — they come pre-programmed to find the world stimulating. Moreover, if we pad and pamper them through every normal stage of development, when do they develop normally? They don’t!

As this study notes:

“In the U.S we have this idea that we need to protect infants and children from microbes and pathogens at all possible costs,” McDade concluded.

“But we may be depriving developing immune networks of important environmental input needed to guide their function throughout childhood and into adulthood. Without this input, our research suggests, inflammation may be more likely to be poorly regulated and result in inflammatory responses that are overblown or more difficult to turn off once things get started.”

The same goes for an overprotected childhood: Keep our kids away from real life and don’t be surprised if they can’t deal with it later on.

And I say all this  not just because Purell always grossed me out. — Lenore

70 Responses

  1. I’ve been avoiding anti-bacterial soaps for this same kind of reason. We don’t need to be afraid of every little germ. Keep things reasonably clean and our bodies learn to fight the rest off. Don’t give it the chance to learn as a matter of routine, and of course you and your kids will be more susceptible to problems later.

    Now if you have health problems that mean you need a little extra protection, that’s something entirely different. But for the average person there’s really no need to go as overboard as so many do now.

  2. This doesn’t surprise me, but I’m glad to see that it is getting at least some attention. Just seems like common sense to me – if a body never has to fight off any germs, it will never be able to. I never use that hand sanitizer stuff or antimicrobial soaps, and usually when colds go around my kids get a little sniffly then get over it.

    It really does make life easier to not worry so much about all the little things…I think more people should try it.🙂

  3. I first heard about this years ago but it is good to see new studies coming out about it and hopefully it gets published by the mainstream media.

    Where are you all finding non-antibacterial soaps? It seems they ALL have it in them these days.

  4. My favorite is being at outdoor festivals and seeing parents spraying the face of their infants with DEET-based mosquito repellants. This happened quite frequently when the lead story is about a 90-year old with one foot in the grave and the other on a bananna peel who died of West Nile virus so We’re All Going To Die If We Don’t Go Nuts With Pesticides. Actually, some years ago during the annual mania I spent a couple of days with a mild flu with chills; a doctor father of a friend later said “Yup. You had West Nile. 99.99% of the time it’s no big deal.” The chances of cancer from prolonged repeated overexposure to pesticides? Much, much higher.

  5. There is also evidence I’ve read that fighting off infections naturally leads to a lower rate of cancer in the long run. In simple words, the immune system needs some work to do to stay healthy. It’s like a army that needs some minor skirmishes in order to be prepared for bigger battles or surprise enemy attacks.

  6. Last year when my daughter was in kindergarten they were making the kids wash their hands and use hand sanitizer. Talk about over kill. And when the cold weather set in she came home one day with huge welts on the back of her hands they were so dry. I called her teacher and ask that she not use the hand sanitizer anymore.

  7. When my son was in 1st grade they made them use hand sanitizer INSTEAD of washing their hands after using the bathroom, which grossed me out.

  8. What’s driving me up the wall this year is the hand sanitizer dispensers in every public place because of swine flu.

    Hand sanitizer kills BACTERIA. Influenza is a VIRUS. And yet it’s the health department promoting this! I don’t get it.

    Kirsten — most liquid soap is anti-bacterial, I guess, but bar soaps aren’t as much.

  9. We avoid anti-bacterial stuff, but these days it’s hard to find things that aren’t anti-bacterial.

    My husband went to the store to get some hand soap and out of everything there, only one was not anti-bacterial.

    On top of that, the smell of Purell makes me want to vomit. Sadly almost everyone I work with uses it constantly along with Clorax wipes to clean their work areas.

  10. We’ve always been pretty lax in handwashing, to be honest. After the bathroom, yes, or really dirty or doing mucky things, of course, but we’ve never harped on it.

    H1N1 all around us. No one got the shot. Hubby and I got regular flu shots from our employers. No one has been sick but for minor colds.

    It’s hard to buy liquid soap that’s not anti-bacterial, but you can just by a bar of Ivory, maybe? We use the liquids because I like them but like I said, we don’t harp on it.

  11. I hate hand sanitizers. I refuse to use them for this very reason. I’m glad there are studies out that can back me up now.

    My husband is a coach, and my dd and I go to all the games, so my dd (17 months) plays on all the gym floors and bleachers, and to keep her happy I bring snacks. I get horrified looks and comments from parents who see me letting my child eat without washing her hands, and god-forbid – picking up eating a cracker that she dropped on the ground instead of throwing it away. I’ve been telling them “its good for her immune system, trust me, its okay.” But they all think I’m nuts anyway. lol Oh well. My daughter is a very healthy child. Jokes on them!
    Of course, these are the same parents that freak out when I let my daughter climb on the bleachers, and walk along the lowest bench. . . of course while we are all sitting there with her. They make me laugh.

  12. My grandmother-in-law was passive-aggressively flipping out the other day that we don’t wash off my 7-month-old’s pacifier after she drops it on the floor — the *floor*, not the ground. I told her it was good for my daughter’s immune system. She said under her breath, “Well she’ll be immune to everything, she drops that thing so often.” Grr. I chose not to respond. Will the insanity never end??

  13. >Educational placemats to “help” them get interested in words.

    Babies have been learning to read on their own for millions of years?

  14. For those who use only hand sanitizers after using the restroom, you really aren’t doing much. Soap and water will wash away any feces or urine that may have gotten on your hand. If you just use the sanitizers, that stuff is still on your hands. If you want to use hand sanitizers after washing your hands with soap and water, fine! But honestly, what good is it going to do. After using the hand sanitizers, chances are, a couple of minutes later, you are going to touch something that is contaminated and the hand sanitizer will have been used in vain. My family and I do not use hand sanitizers, and I also use organic house cleaners (instead of using that stuff with all those chemicals) to clean our house, and my family hardly ever gets sick.

  15. Jessie, your pacifier story reminded me of when my first-born was a baby. At that time we were members of a group that also had a very high percentage of retirement-age members. When my daughter’s paci fell on the floor, I would pick it up, stick it in my own mouth to clean off any foreign objects, and give it back to her. No one ever SAID anything, but some of the LOOKS were priceless! And my daughter is extremely healthy.

  16. I’ve always believed this to be true. We are definitely not germaphobes here and my kids are rarely ever sick. We do have anti-bacterial soap in the kitchen but I don’t think the stuff in the bathroom is. I really don’t pay much attention when I buy it, I just get whatever is cheap. But I refuse to have hand sanitizer in the house.
    The kids have it at school but it grosses me out that they use it instead of washing hands because it takes too long to go to the bathroom to use soap and water (then need a sink in every classroom, I think, especially since the younger kids eat at their desks in their room).

  17. At our school they do have a sink in every class room. I think they have stopped using the hand sanitizer. I must not have been the only mom to complain.

  18. It seems as though more and more parents are keeping their babies away from any environment that has more than just a few people. Something about not wanting to expose them to germs. In instances where there is a medical reason for such caution, I understand. But I can’t see keeping a 3 month old away from LIFE just because of this fear of germs.

    How did this happen???

  19. Anti-bac anything is a pet peeve of mine. I always read the labels buying liquid soap, it can be really tricky to find one that is just soap. Even trickier to find one that smells nice as well.

    It’s not just the immune system being primed. It’s evolution. Using antibacterial soaps will only hasten the development of resistant strains and then we will really be stuffed.

    I also stay away from commercial cleaners, I make my own with essential oils and vinegar. Cleans great, but doesn’t overkill, and if the kids I don’t have yet get into it one day, it won’t kill them.

    I do carry hand sanitizer, but only because a month ago I had conjunctivitis so I used it before putting my eye drops in when I was in class and couldn’t get to a sink, or after inadvertantly touching my eye. Now I find it handy when I’m somewhere that has portaloos and has run out of water or sanitizer.

  20. Now I can cite a study when I make a point of buying non anti-bacterial soap and let my kid eat food that fell on the floor.

  21. Target has a brand of liquid hand soap called method, I have some and I was looking at and I can’t see anywere on it saying anti-bacterial maybe I’m missing it but anyway I think that might be one.

  22. Jessie: “Well, she’ll be immune to everything…”

    Uh, isn’t that kind of the point?

  23. Urk. Never been a fan of anti-bacterial soap. The stuff tends to be overharsh on the skin and smells weird, but I keep it handy for dish-washing as 1) I don’t have a dishwasher and 2) if there were a dictionary entry for “lazy dishwasher” you’d find my picture right next to it. Finding “not anti-bacterial” soap isn’t too hard if you know where to look. The seasonal french market I go to always has someone there with some lovely aromatic hand soaps and Trader Joes and Wholepaycheck (er, Whole Foods) carries some as well – yes, the stuff tends to be more expensive, but it’s one of the few places I’ve seen dish soap/cleaning soap that isn’t anti-bacterial. Most of the hand soaps are in bar form (WF and other stores I’ve been to have giant soap bars that you take a “slice” of so cost is by weight), but I actually like that, so it can depend on personal preference. On the whole I’ve found that less-chemically soaps tend to smell better and are less apt to dry out one’s skin (really seems to work well for people with eczema and skin that dries & cracks easily).

    I avoid hand-sanitizer like the plague (har!) – it just feels weird and I just want to run my hands under water every time I’ve tried using it.

    But I love this: “Keep our kids away from real life and don’t be surprised if they can’t deal with it later on.” I want to calligraphy that, frame it and send it to every one of my friends who are parents.

  24. I do think something like purell has it’s very limited place. I do use it when the kids are sick and I am trying not to get sick as well, since we all know that mommies can’t get sick😉

    Other than that one use, we don’t use it at all. We teach our children to wash their hands when appropriate and I carry around regular old baby wipes and tissues for when we are out.

    Amazingly my kids are much healthier than friends kids who use the stuff all the time.

  25. I’ve got to say, I had a place mat with dinosaurs on it as a kid, and a tiny human stick figure for size comparison. That was a great place mat, and definitely inspired me to read more about dinosaurs.

    The hyper-hygenic environment being bad for the immune system makes sense. Babies have a HUGE thymus (immune organ above the heart, produces mature T cells) for a reason – they need to make a lot of T cells so their immune system can grow and become functional. Exposure to crud, like sand, dirt, pets and their drool, is essential for babies so their immune system will start making memory B cells, so when they are exposed to crud later in life, they won’t get really sick from a common virus. Mother’s milk also gives babies some initial antibodies and immunity as well.

    I work in a neurobiology lab and do a lot of bacteriological work – when I purify proteins from bacteria, we use simple detergents to crack their cell walls open. Soap and water will do the same, there isn’t a real need for most people to use heavy duty antimicrobial agents (with the exception of the immunocompromised and those infected with HCV or HIV). There is also some evidence (“The bactericidal agent triclosan modulates thyroid hormone-associated gene expression and disrupts postembryonic anuran development”. Aquatic Toxicology 80 (3): 217–227. ) that triclosan is an endocrine disruptor (in amphibians, anyway) as well, so all the more reason to avoid antimicrobial soap.

  26. My kids disinfect with dirt. Dirty dirt. With manure in it. My kids also burn off sickness quickly. Often with a low fever and no other symptoms. They are sick less often than their peers. Yay dirt.
    Yes, we do encourage the kids to wash their hands. But not religiously. And I keep them away from others when they have snotty noses or a cough. What they may get rid of quickly, another child may suffer a long time with.

  27. This isn’t new. The New York Times and others have been reporting over the last several years about the importance of dirt and germs–and even parasites–in children. Those poor third-world kids we feel sorry for on television don’t have asthma and other ailments common in this country. One stat (and I really wish I had the article handy) even said that kids growing up with dogs grow up healthier because they’re more exposed to worms and other “gross” stuff. One of the doctors interviewed in one article said “kids shouldn’t necessarily wash their hands before dinner if they’ve been playing in the dirt.”

  28. I’m fairly certain Softsoap liquid is not antibacterial. and it’s CHEAP!

    for the record, we’re not rabid germaphobes by any means, but my 4 month old is battling a nasty case of thrush due to my putting his binky in my mouth. ugh.

  29. I was brought up with the theory of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” when it comes to minor illness, germs and dirt and firmly believe that is the case. Too many times my voice is shouted down my the, “take an antibiotic for the stuffy nose or wash it till your skin is red crowd.”

    My favorite teething toy – a frozen wet washcloth or cold car keys- but I would bet that a good number of parents wouldn’t do that now days, seeing as how they are not anti-microbial. And I am sure that I am a much healthier person from chewing on car keys as a kid (yuck!, but wow, how many germs did I conquer there?)

    Don’t even get me started on the Purell stuff. People act as if it has magical healing powers.

  30. I’m very much against anti-bacterial soaps. These anti-bacterial soaps are contributing to the evolution of bacterias, and are contributing to new super bugs like MRSA. The soap may kill off most bacterias on your hands, but the one that survives is the strong one that’s going to multiple and create off springs that’s just as strong as it is.

    Also, I was raised in a hyper clean environment. My mother bleached our hard wood and tile floors once a day and excessively cleaned all counters kids may touch. I was not allowed to play in the dirt and did not see sand until I was 10. All of my siblings, including me, grew up with weak immune systems and got sick often. It may be genetics, but I suspect my mother’s bleaching of the floors every day had something to do with it as well.

  31. i can’t use hand sanitizers due to an allerg to alcohol. the looks i get when just wasing my hands with soap and water are vastly amusing. from adults! i work at a horse farm and am covered with you know what all day…also the only one in my group not to be sick all winter. by the way if you can find it ivory liquid soap[ not dish detergent] is not anti bacterial.

  32. The only time I bought hand sanitizer was when we were traveling to a state with a huge incidence of H1N1 this fall. Used it after visting rest stops, gas stations, stores, etc.

    My oldest child is 12 now and somehow he has lived without hand sanitizer.

    I am a fan of good old fashioned soap and water.

    We also don’t buy anti-bacterial soaps.

    I recommend pure castille soap, all natural, Dr. Bronner’s or Trader Joe’s brand, liquid soap to avoid the chemicals in many grocery store soaps.

    I also think most soaps reek too highly of scents.

  33. my dust-bunnies thrives best with out antibacterial anyway

  34. Jessie: My oldest (now 12) was about your daughter’s age when I came back from washing his pacifier after it’d been dropped in our living room, and found that in my brief absence he had wriggled off his blanket and was licking the carpet. That was a definite wake-up call about both the necessity and the POSSIBILITY of keeping a kid germ-free, and the end of pacifier washing for me! His immune system, incidentally, is fine, even on the robust side — he gets sick now and then, but usually he’s the last one of a group to come down with something, and plenty of times something icky went around his preschool and he never got it.

  35. This is right in line with the hygiene hypothesis, and its getting more support from scientific research everyday. Remember last month when scientists discovered that bacteria on your skin actually help skin heal?

    http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2009/11/25/cut-your-hands-dont-wash-them/

  36. Aren’t the marionette-like harnesses just leading strings? I believe leading strings were invented hundreds of years ago not for the child but for the grown-up, since there’s a limit to the amount of time you can spend stooped over with your learning-to-walk toddler clutching your fingers– no matter HOW LONG the toddler may want you to.

    Now, mind you, I don’t usually use antibacterial soap or handwipes, but at work we do use alcohol based wipes periodically on our public computer keyboards. One of Dr. Mercola’s alcolytes objected to this on the grounds that alcohol was bad for the hands. *rolls eyes*

  37. Pentamom – actually, purell does kill viruses too, not just bacteria. It’s not an antibiotic but a biocide – so it isn’t discriminatory about the type of one celled critters it nukes.

    That said, I almost never use it. I also refuse to buy anything antibacterial and have never had a problem finding it. Target’s Method soap, Mrs. Meyers, Dr. Bronners (some grocery stores/health food stores and at my local Lowes on an end cap) and some Ivory are all just basic soap sans antibacterial.

    My 18 month old has had a few colds, but nothing major. She got the flu shot and all of the regular vaccinations (but on a delayed schedule)… I used to put Cheerios directly on the floor for her to eat, they were bound to end up there anyways so why bother with a cup? She also has a kitty that is her best friend and a couple of dogs that she likes to chase around. Sticks and leaves go into her mouth on occasion… she’ll be fine. AND, I’m actually encouraging this due to a strong familial genetics of Chrone’s disease, which is a severe bowel inflamation. Who knows if this will help, but I’m not taking any chances.

  38. My mom always said that her grandfather always said that you’ve got to eat a peck of dirt before you die!

    I’ve been against antibacterial soaps since they were introduced. Everything I’ve ever read says plain soap works just as well, and you don’t have to worry about breeding supergerms with it.

    I do like to use liquid hand soaps. Trader Joe’s has some nice ones, and if you go through all the bottles on the supermarket shelf, you can usually find one or two that are not antibacterial. I prefer Joy dishwashing liquid, which can also be found in non-antibacterial forms.

    I rarely use Purell on my hands, but it’s great for dissolving the sticky boric acid liquid from Terro ant traps!

  39. What? I am NOT a bad mom because I refuse to carry the tiny bottle of Purell in my purse for the kids. 🙂 I have actually heard this several times before.

    Someone mentioned Method brand. I love it and I couldn’t find anything antibacterial on it either. The hand soap also has refill pouches.

  40. whatthehay — it sounds like you know more about it than I do, so I’m going to take your word for it. But viruses aren’t cells and aren’t biologically alive in the same sense that bacteria are, so I’m not sure they are as easily “killed,” or at least killed by the same thing that kills living cellular entities. Aren’t they just a hunk of RNA or something? They would need to be decomposed some other way. But maybe sanitizers do that.

  41. We also don’t wash off our son’s pacifiers every time he drops them on the floor. I just wipe them off with my fingers or if there seems to be a lot of cat hair on it I’ll rinse it off real quick. The one thing I won’t do is put it in my own mouth. I read somewhere years ago that doing that transfers the bacteria that cause cavities and such to the babies mouth. I don’t know if that’s actually true but it made a big impact on me.

    @Virginia, I’m going to have to try that with the purell since I have a spot of the Terro on my bathroom floor that I’ve been trying to get up for ages.

  42. Whole Foods has a hand sanatizer or something like it that is supposed to be all natural.

  43. Yes, Jenn, they’re just leading strings.

    DMJ – so what if it’s all natural? Nightshade is all natural, and it grows wild all over around my neighborhood (I’ve taken the time to point it out to my nieces because it’s really very pretty but it will kill them if they eat it), but that doesn’t mean it’s good.

    Besides, most of those hand sanitizers are fairly natural anyway. They’re just a concentration of some high percentage of alcohol – you could carry a bottle of rubbing alcohol with you for the same effect, at a high enough concentration that stuff will kill almost anything. Or, you know, you could wash your hands when reasonable. Whatever.

  44. We never hid our kids away from the world. All of mine went right from the hospital to a store or to a restaurant the very next day after leaving.
    I sure didn’t wash pacifiers every time they hit the ground. I would have spent my entire day just washing them. I didn’t sterilize bottles (either just hot soapy water or toss them in the dishwasher) or boil water (we have good tap water here).

    The pacifier thing cracks me up. I’ve also seen my kids lick the floor, the bottom of shoes, anything they could reach. My youngest had a major shoe fetish and would chew on any shoe she found, lol.

    And I also used to toss cheerios on the floor. One time I gave my youngest, then about 8 months, a small bowl of cheerios and she immediately picked the thing up and tossed the cereal all over the floor. I took pictures. Next time I just put a handful on the floor next to her.

    All of that and my kids are rarely ever sick. And the times they have been sick it is always mild and they are over it in a few days without being treated. I’ll get the same illness and be sick for weeks (my immune system sucks for other reasons because I had just as much exposure to dirt and germs as a child).

  45. Last year my youngest son went to pre-school. I stopped by for a class party where they were serving snacks. As I was squatting down next to Beau’s chair, I watched as the teacher went around and loaded all the children’s hands with Purell. Most of the children could not have possibly gotten all the lotion rubbed in sufficiently which means they ate some of that Purell with their snack! I immediately washed Beau’s hands and asked the teachers to please do not use the anti-bacterial right before snack time. YUCK!!

  46. Uly,

    Thanks for picking up on my pet peeve. Other things that are “all natural”; poison ivy, lead, mercury, horse manure, and snake venom. I get so tired of people thinking “all natural” means it is automatically good for you. When I hear someone say something is all natural my first question is “All natural what?”. Amazing how often the person has no idea they just knows it is all natural and that is good enough for them.

  47. I haven’t read every reply – but I saw where some people were having difficulty finding hand soap that is NOT anti-bacterial. We’ve been using BJ’s brand (Berkley & Jensen) moisturizing hand soap liquid. It comes in a gallon refill – very convenient.

  48. RE: “all natural” – my DH works in safety and always harps on that phrase! He says chemicals work the way they work, whether they are naturally occurring or not. I use “safer alternatives” in my home (cleaning, laundry, body care), that are less likely to cause harm. I believe the strongest label on any of my products says “caution”, which is the least offensive. (“Danger” and “warning” are worse.) On a weird note, the company I purchase from also offers an anti-bacterial hand soap with Triclosan. I always buy the non-AB, “moisturizing” hand soap, but I wonder what possessed a company selling “safer” products to sell an AB soap!

  49. Oh, and BTW, chlorine bleach is one of the worst things you can use. For the person whose co-workers use those wipes, ask them if they know they are supposed to RINSE the surface they just wiped when they are done. Getting rid of bleach from my home was one of the best things I did. I use an alternative disinfectant even alloweded by the agency that licenses home daycares in my state instead of bleach. It’s made with thyme oil as the main ingredient, and YES it should still be rinsed from surfaces coming in direct contact with human skin (like toilet seats).

  50. I always thought that a little dirt was good for the kids. Face it, if the kids aren’t exposed to dirt and germs when they are young, they will develop allergies later. And you don’t want to keep them in a bubble anyway..how boring would that be? Anyway, that’s my excuse for a profusion of dog and cat hair in the house along with a less than sterile cleaning method. I could still have company over, but I told them that my home was a place where we lived…it wasn’t supposed to be a showcase. I can say though that both of my kids, now in their twenties, show no signs of allergies.

  51. I remember taking my oldest daughter for her two-week pediatrician visit, and the ped saying that at her age, we should probably keep her away from family gatherings and such until she was “a couple months old.”

    She was born December 12. Do the math — the ped would have preferred that she not see family at CHRISTMAS. That’s right, folks — grandma can’t see the new baby at Christmas!

    Thankfully, I had picked up enough “common sense” from wherever to realize that this wasn’t really necessary. I’ve always let my kids be freely handled by careful, healthy people, and they’ve always been safe and healthy.

  52. Common sense always wins out in the long run. Sooner or later studies like this would have to come out. We have survived for thousands of years without Purell. This over this along with all the baby safety items were sold to us as a need so that they could be sold to us for a profit. Let’s get on with life already. It’s not totally safe and I don’t want it to be. Where is the fun in that?

  53. Hey Lenore – I don’t think there ARE a zillion other studies that contradict this one … But there are many that confirm it! (i.e. having pets in the home decreases incidence of asthma and allergies and more…) Just because someone can evidence that Product X kills bacteria and viruses, does not mean that a) it is necessary to do so and b) soap and water can’t do the same job, at less expense and with fewer environmental consequences. The rush to anti-bacterial / anti-microbial everything is primarily a marketing strategy, in my opinion.

    Reasonable cleanliness and good food handling practices should be sufficient for most people, perhaps excepting those with lowered immunity.

    (And anyway, just try to keep an 6-24 month old from touching everything within reach and then immediately putting fingers in mouth!

  54. How come no one does the story about the new sanitizers on the market which are alcohol-free? There are new products that kill 3 times the germs, work up to 30 minutes, and they are safer to use than alcohol. This one is my favorite: http://www.cleanphirst.com/store/alcohol_free_foam_hand_sanitizer.asp

  55. Dr. Bronner’s has no antibacterial chemicals except those found already in soap. Combine that with a little warm water and voila!, you have clean hands. Target, Wallyworld and any good health food store will stock it.

    I loathe purell. It stinks and makes your hands sticky. I’m OCD and have a clean hand thing so I wash frequently but try to use only SoftSoap with no antibacterial stuff (they make it, you have to read labels but they make it) and the aforementioned Dr. Bronner’s.

    My cleaning supplies have been strongly in the Seventh Generation and Ecovia line since working for Whole Foods in the early 90s. Environmental impact was the main reason but the lack of overpowering fragrances was another reason I switched.

    When my son was born, we decided that we would allow germs in our world. That’s why we have immune systems, right? My kid gets runny noses and has a few allergies but has been pretty darned healthy for the most part. We live by the 5 second rule at our house. Any longer on the floor and one of the dogs has scammed it!

  56. […] Go Easy on the Anti-Microbial Soap, Says New Study Hi Readers! I know, I know — there are probably another zillion studies that contradict this one, and […] […]

  57. Michael, these products advertise as killing 99% of germs. WHY do you need to kill not just 99% of germs? How sick are you that this is necessary?

    Happynat – it’s like “herbal”. Chuck some weeds in a pot and, voila: Herbs!

  58. Couple of thoughts –

    Don’t condemn everyone using hand sanitizer as overprotective. If you saw me with my niece and nephew, you would see 5 yo niece wash her hands with the soap. But nephew (2 yo) and I might be using hand sanitizer – because we have skin conditions that react baddly to soap. The stuff they have in bathrooms will blister the skin right off of us.

    Once at the zoo I helped then 2 yo niece wash her hands. I was stopped by several staff members and a fellow visitor that was a nurse because of the obvious chemical burn. I wish alvenoo would put out something that I could carry in my bag. I’ve tried transferring some of their body wash into a travel container – that was a mess in my bag.

    2 – From what I’ve been told the use of bleach is not allowed in schools here. We use baby wipes to clean the desks in my class room. Pretty regularly because I give the kids dry erase markers and we do the problems on the desk during lessons.

  59. Before my kids were homeschooled, my middle child became germ-paranoid. He would FREAK out when I wouldn’t wash my hands after cooking or before eating. Within 6 months of public school exposure to Purell and the teachers who promote how germs are BAD! BAD! BAD! he bought into the hype. This from a kid who is raised by a mom who doesn’t remember the last time her floor was washed and who encourages a “sniff test” before wearing clothing. Honestly? My kids are HEALTHY. No medical issues. Rarely more than a cold or two each winter season. Only 1 has a mild allergy to dogs.

    Add me to the list of people who despise anti-bacterial soaps and the frenzy that the media has created over germs and bacteria. Germs are our FRIENDS. They keep us strong! They allow us to beat the bigger diseases because of our stronger immunities!

  60. Read Survival of the Sickest by Dr. Sharon Maolem. We need germs, we need to get sick, and allow our children to get sick. And don’t even get me started on the flu vaccines!! Let your kids get dirty, let them eat it, let them play with other kids who are mildly sick. It will make them better, stronger kiddos in the end!!

  61. I once had visitors this summer who went to wash their hands at my kitchen sink and were horrified I had bar soap (Trader Joe’s oatmeal soap) and used the dish washing liquid instead. (One of them uses (petroleum-oil-based) dish washing soap as hand soap in her bathroom. I find that odd but I guess there can’t be much difference between the two, other than it being too harsh on one’s skin.) It seems the fear of germs in our society has extended to even bar soap being dangerous.

    I avoid anti-bacterial soaps and try to buy soap that is not petroleum oil based and that contains no parabens. (Parabens have been linked to breast cancer.) The no paraben thing is tricky. Even Burt’s Bees products have parabens. I’m sure there are other common chemicals in soaps that are not healthy or good for the environment but that’s all I know of specifically.

    When I lived in China in 93-94 I was very sick for the first month or two while my body adjusted to all of the germs. There were no sinks with soap in the restrooms (nor toilets … just troughs and if you were lucky a bucket of water), nor at the hospital in a city of 6 million people.

  62. “Hey Lenore – I don’t think there ARE a zillion other studies that contradict this one ”

    Lenore just has to say this because if she doesn’t, someone will inevitably pop up and say, “But you know, this is just ONE study.”

    Every time. 😉

  63. We have antibacterial handwash in our house, but only one person uses it and thats my OH.. The reason I buy it for him is because he is a drainage engineer (read unblockes toilets, drains, etc.) and does come in contact with some nasties obviously.. The rest of us use normal bars of soap..

  64. LOL -now I know why me and my family are so healthy- my house is filthy!

  65. Oh heck, I’ve known this since I had my first kid, and I was a teen mom! I always say my kids are so healthy and have such iron clad immune systems because they both sampled their poop when they were babies! LOL

  66. It’s pūpū (I hope the u’s with macrons shows up for you). See definition #3 here:
    http://wehewehe.org/gsdl2.5/cgi-bin/hdict?e=q-0hdict–00-0-0–010—4—-den–0-000lpm–1e-Zz-1—Zz-1-home-pupu–00031-0000escapewin-00&a=q&d=D19416

    And my 16-month old daughters love Purell–Tasty!

    Aloha!

  67. […] leaving the strongest alive to reproduce. A new study has also shown that allowing your child to be exposed to some germs will improve their immune systems. Warm running water with ordinary soap is generally enough to prevent the spread of the […]

  68. Reminds me of one my favorite videos by comic genius George Carlin “You Are All Diseased” . Said as kid he and his friends swam in Hudson River – nothing like raw sewage to strengthen your immune system.

  69. Im with you on the kids bit. My husband told me that he would be happy if I "spit one out now" (no joke, those were his words). But im not ready. However.. a jogging stroller will definitely be in my future at some point!

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