advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Ditch Disinfectants?

Is it unhealthy to use disinfectants too often? At what point should we let our immune systems take over to fight germs?

A
Answer (Published 2/10/2012)

Along with many other physicians, I believe it is unhealthy to use disinfectants on a routine basis at home. The long-term danger is that the chemicals in disinfectants stimulate the development of resistant bacteria, a growing health threat worldwide.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

Technically, the disinfectant products designed for home use are antibacterials, and their purpose is to interfere with the growth and reproduction of bacteria. Of the ingredients that are common in these products, the one of greatest concern is triclosan, a long-acting compound that leaves residues on disinfected surfaces and as a result has prolonged action. According to the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA), more than 1,000 commercial products contain triclosan or other biocide agents. Among these products are clothing, toys and disinfectant soaps.

While triclosan does kill bacteria, it is building up in the environment and potentially making germs tougher and more harmful to us:

  • Triclosan has been recovered from lake sediment, rivers, streams, wastewater, seawater and has been found in fish bile, aquatic biota, human breast milk, and blood plasma. We don't yet fully understand the consequences of all this.
  • Along with other residue-producing antibacterials, triclosan has been shown to contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance in the lab.
  • Some evidence suggests that infants and children who grow up in a biocide-laden environment may not develop as strong an immune response as they would otherwise.

The AUPA also reports that studies comparing families who use antibacterial soaps to those that don't have not shown that users have a reduced risk of colds, flu or stomach bugs.

I agree with the APUA's recommendations on the use of antibacterial products in the home:  use them only bwhere there are individuals with depleted immune systems who are more susceptible to infection.

I have said many times on this site and elsewhere that I have never thought that antibacterial products were necessary except in nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare settings where there is a high risk of spreading infections from person to person. There's no proof that the antibacterial soaps and washes marketed for home use serve any useful purpose. Soap and water do just as good a job of cleansing.

To clean kitchen surfaces, the APUA recommends using a 70 percent solution of ethyl or isopropyl alcohol or a three percent solution of household bleach or hydrogen peroxide, all of which are effective against a wide range of disease-causing organisms and don't leave troublesome residues. As an alternative, you can make your own cleaning products from such household items as white vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, tea tree oil, and baking soda. To learn how to do this, I recommend reading the book Clean & Green: The Complete Guide to Non-Toxic Environmentally Safe Housekeeping, by Annie Berthold-Bond, published in paperback by Ceres Press. For a short primer on using common household products for cleaning, see: Natural Household Cleaning Products.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here