Has The Antimicrobial Craze Gone Too Far?

Here's an amazing fact to think about the next time you're walking down the soap aisle in your neighborhood grocery store: Roughly three-quarters of all Americans use a minimum of six antimicrobial products regularly, according to a 2002 study. Hard to believe there are so many products being marketed to prey on the fears of a largely ignorant public.

Don't get me wrong, there are certainly good reasons to keep your hands clean. Health experts estimate more than 80 percent of all infectious diseases -- think E. coli or staph infections -- are spread through such contact. That certainly accounts for the popularity of hand sanitizers. But I bet you probably haven't heard much about these "germ-fighting" products:

  • Toothbrush sanitizers
  • Clothing
  • Refrigerators
  • A antibacterial doormat

See what I mean? Many experts side with me in believing this antibacterial craze is unwarranted, because some exposure to these invisible germs is natural and necessary to maintain our immunity to them. Also, the active ingredient in most antibacterial products is triclosan, an antibacterial agent that kills human cells as well as bacteria. Introduced in consumer products a decade ago, more manufacturers are using triclosan than ever.

Even the American Medical Association doesn't recommend using antibacterial soaps, according to a 2000 report.

New York Times February 27, 2005

Wilimington Star-News February 27, 2005

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