I stumbled across an interesting snippet in a science magazine the other day about a study conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada. The scientists had observed that hospital staff habitually give surfaces only a single quick wipe with antibacterial products in order to disinfect them. They wondered if the number of wipes was important for bugs to be successfully removed from surfaces.
The main results themselves are interesting because it was found that one wipe is not enough and that in fact, three wipes is optimal to properly disinfect surfaces and equipment.
What is also interesting however, particularly to those of us affected by environmental illnesses, is the finding that if wiping a surface three times a simple saline solution (salt water) is as effective at removing nasty bugs as the antibacterial wipes, sanitizers and other products impregnated with chemical disinfectants such as triclosan. These products have become ubiquitous over the past decade and ironically may pose a greater health risk than the bacteria people often use them to protect against.
Studies have shown that this aromatic chlorinated compound, which is similar to organochloride pesticides, is an endocrine disruptor (causes hormonal imbalances), impairs the immune system and may even contribute to the development of various forms of cancer.
In addition there are serious concerns that the massive amounts of triclosan and similar compounds that ultimately end up contaminating the environment could easily contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant superbugs such as MRSA that pose a serious threat to both animal and human health.
I don't know about you but the revelation that using simple salt water and wiping three times rather than once is infinitely preferable to using commercial antibacterial chemicals. It's safer for and your family, the environment...not to mention your wallet!
Source: Berendt AE Turnbull L Spady D Rennie R Forgie SE (2011) Three swipes and you're out: How many swipes are needed to decontaminate plastic with disposable wipes? American Journal of Infection Control [Epub ahead of print]