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If you're always reaching for your antibacterial gel to clean your hands, this will alarm you

Mirror logo Mirror 25/06/2017 Anna Slater

Credits: E+ © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: E+ There' are so many ways you can pick up germs nowadays. On the tube, by using someone else's phone or even just by touching a doorknob.

So that's why many people don't hesitate to spend a few extra pounds on antibacterial soap because you can't put a price on feeling clean.

And if you're nowhere near a sink but desperate to clean your hands, you can easily whip out a small bottle of antibacterial gel, coat your fingers, and feel as fresh as a daisy again.

Sometimes, those plastic bottles can feel like nothing short of a lifesaver.

But they might not be doing as much good as we think - and could even be bad for the environment.

More than 200 scientists and medics have also come out to say that they provide absolutely no health benefits whatsoever.

The soaps and gels, along with antimicrobial versions, perform no better than plain soap and water.

And the statement, published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives also warned of the rise of antimicrobial agents in products such as paint, exercise mats, and food storage containers.

Credits: Dorling Kindersley © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Dorling Kindersley Scientists and health professionals agree that non-medical uses of antimicrobials should be reduced.

Environmental health professor at the University of San Francisco, Dr Barbara Sattler said: "People think antimicrobial hand soaps offer better protection against illness, but generally, antimicrobial soaps perform no better than plain soap and water."

Late last year, America banned 19 different antimicrobial chemicals, including well-known triclosan and triclocarban, saying they were not effective and should not be marketed for use in over-the-counter consumer wash products.

However, scientists fear they have merely been replaced with ones that are even worse.

British firms such as Unilever say they are phasing the two chemicals out of their products by the end of this year,adding they will be replaced by 'a range of alternatives, including natural and nature-inspired antibacterial ingredients'.

Dr Arlene Blum, executive director of Green Science Policy Institute said: "I was happy that the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps.

"But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse.

"Antimicrobials are also commonplace in products where you wouldn't expect them, including paints, exercise mats, flooring, apparel, food storage containers, home textiles, electronics, kitchenware, school supplies, and countertops."

And their use in hospitals could also ultimately be harmful.

Dr Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said: "Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do."

Bill Walsh, president of Healthy Building Network, which recently produced a white paper on antimicrobial building products said: "Added antimicrobials are marketed as beneficial in building products from countertops to doorknobs and light switches.

"Antimicrobial preservatives are useful in certain products like paints, but we found claims about health benefits to be largely invalid.

"Nevertheless, sales of 'antimicrobial' performance products are projected to grow."

Dr Rolf Halden, professor of engineering at Arizona State University added: "Environmental and human exposures to triclosan and triclocarban are widespread, affecting pregnant women, developing foetuses, and breast-feeding babies.


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