Science

Antimicrobials, or anti-your-health?

Why you should rethink buying antimicrobial products

You know it's coming, the dreaded flu season. Maybe you've tried investing in an antimicrobial mattress, shower curtain or probably the most common, soap, to try and prevent those germs from making you and your family sick. They just seem so promising, with their claims of preventing 99.9% of all germs. But, are they actually keeping you safer? Based on new research, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement on why antimicrobials might not be the best way to fight off germs. We'll break down everything for you.


What are antimicrobials?

First things first, antimicrobials are NOT the same thing as antibiotics. Antibiotics are medicines used when you are sick with a bacterial infection, and should definitely be taken fully if prescribed by your doctor, even if you start to feel better after the first couple of days. Antimicrobials, on the other hand, were originally designed by companies who thought that adding in an antimicrobial agent would boost the effectiveness of soaps. The most common ingredient in these antimicrobial products was triclosan (an antibacterial and antifungal agent) which has since been phased out in hand soaps due to FDA regulation (1). Triclosan was phased out over concerns that animal and cell studies show the chemical can impact hormone signaling and other biological processes (2).

Where can you be exposed?

Like we mentioned before, triclosan was first introduced in soaps. Since then, antimicrobials have spread to shower curtains, mattresses, apparel, toothpaste, paint, art supplies, and essentially anything that could have the ability to harbor more germs than usual. Manufactures have included antimicrobials into many of these products because of their tendency to act as a perfect environment for bacteria and mold when they come into contact with water (or sweat!). Even though triclosan has been phased out in hand soap (you can still find it in toothpaste!), it is still allowed in hospitals and food service industries. What is even more concerning for consumers is that companies are replacing triclosan with other antimicrobials that may potentially have the same toxic health effects, if not worse.

Are antimicrobials even effective?

Actually, not at all! In studies conducted, soaps containing triclosan and soaps without triclosan performed exactly the same and prevented the same amount of sickness (2). Even though they sound promising, no amount of antimicrobials will be able to prevent mold and other bacteria from growing on mattresses or shower curtains if they are not properly ventilated and washed. In addition to this, overusing antimicrobials can actually make it harder for doctors to treat you when you are truly sick. Antimicrobials are causing a rise in the number of superbugs, or bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Using antimicrobials when we don't need them makes these bugs resistant to antibiotics, so when we do need antibiotics to treat diseases, they don't work. Basically, by using too many products full of antimicrobials, we are helping the bacteria practice and get stronger at fighting against our best defenses. Sounds like a pretty awful deal for something that doesn't really work, right?!

What should I do then?

Our best advice is to stay away from antimicrobial-containing products, period. Since you can't really prevent antimicrobial exposure in hospitals and food service areas, removing it from your household is a good way to limit your contact. Lucky for us, products containing antimicrobials are usually labeled since companies use it as a selling point and make sure to brag about the fact that their product contains antimicrobials. So if you see one, just put it back on the shelf and buy one that is antimicrobial-free. For household items like mattresses, shower curtains, and clothes, making sure these items are in well ventilated areas and washing them when needed are great ways to make sure gross germs don't grow in the first place.

This little change will make a BIG impact. Staying away from antimicrobial products not only protects your health in the long run, it also ensures that antibiotics will work for you when an infection really hits.

References

  1. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378393.htm
  2. http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2017/say-goodbye-antibacterial-soaps-fda-banning-household-item/

Why Creating Your Own Compost Might Be Easier Than You Think

We've got step-by-step instructions, tips and tricks to get you the best looking soil around (seriously!)

You made it! Now that you're here, don't run yet! Gone are the days when composting meant throwing a heap of your leftovers in the dirt and banking on magic to make some soil (not that you still can't). BUT, we've got everything you need to know to jump on the composting train, reduce your carbon footprint and start saving money on fertilizer without all the headache and mess.

Keep Reading Show Less
Want more news like this?
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update!
By submitting above, you agree to our privacy policy.
/ SOCIAL

9 Veggies You Can Grow Indoors

Gourmet dinners with fresh veggies and no more plastic herb packets are in your future

What's better than having an indoor plant baby? How about one that gives you food? Even if you don't have a backyard, you can grow some vegetables and herbs on a windowsill inside. We found 9 veggies and herbs that are easy to grow inside and are useful to have on hand.

Keep Reading Show Less

Why You Should Care About Soil Contamination If You're Starting a Garden in Your Backyard

Here's the dirt-y details you're going to want to know and what to do about it

Dreary winter blues might have you dreaming of blue skies, warm weather and some home grown vegetables. But before you go jetting off to your nearest Home Depot or nursery, you might want to take a second and get to know your soil. We're serious! No, not the hello, my name is ____, more like the hey, what's in my soil? Not all soils are created equally and trust us when we say that you'll definitely want to make sure the soil you're using for growing food to eat is top notch!

Keep Reading Show Less
Home

What All Those Certifications on Mattresses Actually Mean

Label Education: Decoding what GOTS, GOLS, Greenguard, Organic, and more mean

Choosing the right mattress is so important for sound sleep and health, yet with so many options the shopping can be confusing and stressful! Obviously you want to take comfort and pricing into consideration, but there are some chemical ingredients you might want to consider too. Standard synthetic foam mattresses can contain various harmful chemicals we don't want to be sleeping on. And these chemicals can evaporate into the air, or collect in house dust, which is yucky and no good for your family's health.

The great news is that there are a bunch of healthier alternatives, and these labels below can help you find them. We also have a roundup of 12 non-toxic mattress brands if you just want a quick guide to organic mattresses and natural mattresses you can buy.

Keep Reading Show Less
Roundups

12 Non-Toxic Mattresses

options for every budget that are free of any harsh chemicals and petroleum-based foam, including organic mattresses

Step 1: Start researching organic mattresses or natural mattresses. Step 2: Get confused! Step 3: Look at our roundup where we did all the research on safe, well reviewed, comfy mattresses for you. Step 4: Order a healthy, non-toxic, organic mattress Step 5: Sleep more peacefully. We found options for every budget, so what are you waiting for?

All of the mattress brands we found use natural materials like 100% natural latex, organic cotton, and wool, and do not use petroleum-based foams or no chemical flame retardants. For our budget picks ($), a base model queen retailed for less than $1000. For the quality picks ($), a queen ran between $1000 and $2000. And the splurge picks ($) retailed for above $2000. Some brands use inner coils and some are made of just latex layers. We hope this list of natural mattress brands is a good starting place for a better night's sleep.

Keep Reading Show Less

Are your noisy neighbors and traffic noises from outside making you mad? Quite possibly! All the noise you experience throughout the day might be taking a toll on your health. Besides just being supremely annoying, studies show that noise pollution - yep that's really what it's called - is intricately linked to many mental and physical health problems.

Not only does the constant annoyance of irritating noises make people more anxious, but noise makes working more difficult. The noise itself disrupts memory, affects your ability to focus, and decreases performance (1). And if the noise is disrupting your sleep, then that might mean even more bad news!

Keep Reading Show Less

We all have our favorite lipstick. The one that we wear practically every day, is acceptable for work and going out, and that you are always sure to buy extras of, just in case the store runs out. Maybe yours is bright red, a nude pink, or maybe you like to go all out and wear a different shade every week. Regardless of how you get your perfect pout, it might be time to put on your detective hat and take a deeper dive into what makes your lips shine.

Keep Reading Show Less
Want more news like this?
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update!
By submitting above, you agree to our privacy policy.
/ SOCIAL