Health and Toxics

By: Watershed Sentinel  09-12-2011

by Philip Dickey

Adapted from the WS May/July 2005 issue

Turn on the TV or read any home-oriented magazine and you'll see them. Ads for all kinds of household products containing germ-killing ingredients are everywhere. Hand soap, dishwashing liquid, underwear, kitchen sponges, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mattresses, cutting boards, window cleaner, socks, cycling shorts, chop sticks, and facial tissues are all being marketed for their ability to kill germs.

It's been estimated that more than 700 antimicrobial-infused products are now available, including 76% of all liquid soaps. Consumers, driven by frightening stories of E. coli outbreaks, bizarre viruses, and drug-resistant germs are buying this stuff in the hopes that it will keep them safe (or their gym clothes from smelling).

Disinfectants, Antiseptics, and Antimicrobials

If you are confused by all the names and labels, you're not alone.

Antimicrobial is the general term for any product or ingredient that kills or inhibits bacteria, viruses, or moulds.

Antibacterials, on the other hand, are only effective against bacteria. Until recently, the main kinds of home antimicrobial products were disinfectants and antiseptics.

Disinfectants are products that kill micro-organisms (usually both bacteria and viruses) on surfaces like countertops or toilet seats.

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