We’ve all been there: you are washing your hands in the restroom when someone comes out of a stall behind you, walks straight past the sink, and leaves without washing her hands. It’s gross, and the thought of such behaviour pushes us to become the direct opposite of that girl, and Purell everything she may have touched on her way out. We become that girl that carries antibacterial gel in her bag and uses the hand sanitizer dispenser when ever she comes across one.
You may think you’re doing your body a favour every time you use hand sanitizer or antibacterial products, but it could actually be doing far more harm to your body. Restrooms, dining halls, even the hallway outside of the classroom- it seems like almost everywhere on campus you can find antibacterial foam dispensers, as though we are expected use them 24/7. Moreover, we are being sold domestic cleaners, body soaps and now even make-up brushes which contain anti-bacterial ingredients, allegedly for our benefit. However one can not help but think- how beneficial is this over-sanitizing, anti-bacterial-everything culture? Fellow germophobes out there may think you are killing germs by obsessively using hand sanitizer but you may actually be making yourself more vulnerable to colds and the flu.
- Many leading antibacterial products on the market claim to kill 99% of bacteria, or something in that region, and these products do exactly that- they kill a lot of bacteria
- Inevitably this means that they do not kill about 1% of bacteria, and it is this 1% which is dangerous
- This 1% reproduce and multiply, taking place of less resistant bacteria strains
- This is dangerous because it means all of the new bacteria on your hands, or where ever you have used the product, are immune to a potent antibacterial chemical
- As a result, the products gradually become less effectual whilst stronger, more resistant bacteria multiply around you!
Additionally, since your immunity to viruses and diseases builds through your body fighting the cells which cause them, hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps are also generally bad for your immune system. This is particularly dangerous for children, whose bodies are building their immune systems rapidly. Sanitizing products are therefore all the more harmful to their development.
With hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere, today more than ever it is difficult to conceive of a way to be hygienic during the day without using these products! On a daily basis we regularly come in to physical contact with people and places which have been in physical contact with other people and places we are unfamiliar with, and for some reason this scares us (Think Ben Stiller in Along Came Polly, who reminded the audience that a tray of mixed nuts in a bar brimful of germs from several strangers’ unwashed hands). However, it should be the sanitizing products themselves which scare us, since antibacterial products evidently strengthen the bacteria we encounter daily whilst weakening our immune system. Research has proven that regular, plain soaps are just as effective as antibacterial soaps in reducing bacteria related illnesses. Moreover, the US Food and Drug Administration have discredited this image of the mythical healing power of sanitizing products, saying that antibacterial soaps and body washes do not provide any more benefit over washing with regular soap and water.
Clearly, it is possible and easy to stay clean without drowning our hands with antibacterial gel every hour of the day! Cleanliness, and more importantly health, comes from taking the time to properly wash your hands (scientists recommend 30 seconds) and from allowing your immune system to naturally build a strong defence.