Regis: Americans overwhelmingly want to use antibacterial products. Have you tried to purchase liquid soap that is not antibacterial? Currently, 75% of liquid soaps on the market are antibacterial, and many contain triclosan.
Barbara: These popular products do not kill flu and cold viruses. Overuse promotes antibiotic resistance in bacteria and encourages viruses to mutate. Just washing and drying your hands removes many viruses. This also reduces disease-causing bacteria which tend to be on the surface, while leaving those that are essential to our well-being.
Regis: While this is true, consider the environmental impact. If you use a paper towel to dry your hands, in effect you are chopping down trees and sending more paper to landfills.
Barbara: The use of antibacterial cleaners also impacts the environment. In a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), triclosan was found in the urine of 75% of the population. The American Medical Association advises against household use, and the Environmental Protection Agency plans a triclosan review in 2013.
Regis: Antibacterial products in hospitals are effective in reducing the spread of many serious infections. The CDC suggests washing their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap or a dime-sized dollop of an alcohol sanitizer for 30 seconds. It is important to let hand sanitizer dry to avoid spreading infection.
Barbara: The needs in hospitals differ from those in the home; should we consider restrictions on home use? The ultimate effectiveness of all soaps, gels, and foams depends on the behavior of the user. Sanitizers are ineffective when hands are soiled or when used by people preparing food. I will reserve hand sanitizers for times when soap and water are unavailable.
Regis: Some decisions are not easy. Should we restrict the use of alcohol-based sanitizers and ban the use of triclosan from over-the-counter products? Will you choose to limit the use of hand sanitizing products in your home? Send us your ideas at: firstname.lastname@example.org