(NaturalHealth365) The choice to employ antibacterial and disinfecting wipes to clean dirty surfaces seems like a no-brainer. Not only are wipes convenient to use, fairly inexpensive and pleasantly scented, but they give the user the reassuring conviction that pathogens and dangerous microbes are being killed.
For most unsuspecting buyers of these wipes, that would seem like a win-win scenario, right? Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth!
Exposing the sickening truth about disinfecting wipes
It turns out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates all disinfecting wipes as pesticides – because they are. If a product label makes claims towards killing, controlling, repelling, mitigating or reducing a pest – which can mean germs – it is officially a pesticide, and subject to specific regulations.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, wipe containers that say “EPA” on the label must include specific instructions on how to use the product to kill pests – as well as first aid instructions in case of accidental exposure.
And, many disinfecting wipes include some toxic ingredients, particularly quaternary ammonium compounds – or “quats” – which can cause asthma, allergies and irritation of the skin, eyes and lungs. The words “n-Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride,” “Alkyl C12-18” and “Alkyl C12-14” are all tipoffs to the present of quats.
Another compound found in some disinfecting wipes, ortho-phenylphenyl, can cause cancer. And chlorine bleach has been linked to asthma as well.
Are your disinfecting wipes “premoistened?” If so, you can be assured that some type of chemical has been used to suppress bacterial growth in the package – including parabens, formaldehyde releasers and MI/MCI – all of which have been associated with adverse health effects.
Experts call for a sharp reduction in the use of disinfecting wipes
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define “cleaning” as removing dirt and germs from surfaces, while “disinfecting” is the process of actively killing germs or inhibiting their growth.
And, in many cases, “cleaning” is just as effective. To the surprise of many, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has admitted that there is no evidence that cleaning with disinfectants is any better at preventing illness than cleaning with good old-fashioned soap and water.
Experts are now recommending that the use of disinfecting wipes be eliminated in standard offices and classrooms, and only used in specific areas – such as athletic mats and changing tables – or for certain situations, such as cleaning a cutting board exposed to raw meat, or wiping up bodily fluids from a contagious illness. In other words, they should only be used when their benefits will exceed their health hazards.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the hazards of pesticides in disinfecting wipes, due to their still-developing organs and smaller size. According to Healthy Schools, Inc., a non-profit organization that fosters environmental health in schools, children should never use disinfecting wipes.
Another excellent reason to avoid disinfecting wipes is the “hygiene hypothesis:” the fact that exposure to some living bacteria actually helps to strengthen the immune system. Scientists report that excessive use of disinfectants is actually contributing to the development of “superbugs” – microbes that are resistant to antibiotics.
Important to note: the rise of superbugs, such as MRSA, has been labeled a global public health crisis by the World Health Organization.
Substitute non-disinfecting wipes for routine cleaning
Instead of disinfecting wipes, you can use wet paper towels, good old fashion soap and water or essential oils in a spray bottle to clean surfaces – as well as hands.
When germs absolutely must be put on the run, experts recommend opting for certified “green” cleaning products and safer substances, such as hydrogen peroxide, lactic acid, caprylic acid and citric acid. The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit environmental organization, also advises the use of thymol – the active constituent in oil of thyme.
Of course, frequent hand-washing is one of the most effective ways to control germs and the spread of infection.
A final word of caution about disinfecting wipes
If you have to use a disinfecting wipe, keep in mind: not only are disinfecting wipes being used excessively, but experts say they are being used improperly.
Merely swiping them across a surface is not sufficient, because most disinfectants require a “dwell time” – in which they stay in contact with the surface for a full ten minutes – to effectively kill microbes.
(When’s the last time you saw anyone leave a disinfecting wipe or a cleaning product on a surface for that amount of time?)
In addition, the disinfected surface must be rinsed with water afterwards – and the object should be washed thoroughly before being used again. Disinfecting wipes should never be used on skin, and you should also wash your hands with soap and water after using them.
Finally, don’t use the same wipe on multiple surfaces – which can spread germs from one surface to another.
With an average of 20,116 cases of pesticide poisoning being treated in healthcare facilities every year, there’s no reason to expose ourselves to the hazards of even more toxins lurking in disinfecting wipes. With the exception of rare instances, it’s time to show them the door.
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