Antibacterial Soap No Protection
Urban consumer, out and about, has anxieties about touching or coming into contact with various surfaces during the day and picking up “germs” or “bacteria” along the way.
Hand washing, in any case is an Indian habit that has stood us in good stead, but now with pandemics being the order of the day, a more rigorous hand washing routine is seen as a must. Most companies are cashing in on this and pushing a variety of “hand wash”, “anti bacterial”, “germ combating” soaps and liquids into the market and consumer homes. It was observed in the VOICE office washroom that most people avoided using soap cakes, because these were perceived to be “unclean” as a number of users were constantly putting them to use. However, when these were replaced with liquid hand wash, everybody felt that it was a comparatively more sanitary product. Consumer VOICE tested 8 brands of anti bacterial liquid handwash.
Most consumer goods with antibacterial properties, marketed aggressively, are unnecessary, and may even contribute to antibiotic-resistant super germs.
It’s better to avoid them.
With all current concerns about bird flu and now H1N1—not to mention a desire to avoid the common cold and intestinal complaints—it’s tempting to reach for the soap labeled “antibacterial” the next time you hit the super-market shelves. Sales of antibacterial hand soaps and antiseptic hand gels have been soaring in recent years with aggressive company marketing.
Antibacterial Soap No Protection from Swine Flu
The ingredients in antibacterial soaps – triclosan or triclocarban – have some serious toxicity concerns. These chemicals pollute rivers and streams, are toxic to wildlife, can enter and accumulate in people’s bodies, and disrupt hormone systems (triclosan interferes with thyroid hormone, whereas triclocarban has a testosterone-like effect).
Triclosan Use is Bad
Triclosan is a toxic pesticide that’s marketed as an “antibacterial agent” but is powerful enough to threaten children’s health and pollute mothers’ breast milk.
According to a study by researchers at the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), triclosan has been linked to cancer in lab animals. Triclosan disrupts the endocrine system by blocking the tadpoles and dolphins developments.
The bottom line is: Don’t use antibacterial soaps! Do wash your hands frequently with regular soap and water, and do use hand sanitizers when you’re not near a sink!
It’s useful to remember that triclosan, like other pesticides, is a poison. It’s poisonous to bacteria. We may be far removed from bacteria, way up in the evolutionary branches of life, but the common chemistry of living things means that chemicals that affect one form of life often affect others too.
Why is triclosan used so widely? People buy it. And marketers sell it. The market’s worth is estimated at $1 billion in the US alone and now the increasing popularity of this product amongst consumers can mean more earnings for the industry by putting consumer and environmental health at risk.
Broad-spectrum antiseptics like alcohol kill bacteria in a completely different way than triclosan does. Since alcohol kills bacteria by physically rupturing the cell wall and many other components, it’s almost impossible for bacteria to evolve resistance.
The six basic claims for not using Triclosan in consumer products:
What’s a Concerned consumer to Do?
Most experts agree that the best way to prevent the transmission of disease is to simply practice proper hand-washing techniques with plain soap and water. This means washing with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds and drying with a clean towel to further aid in removing bacteria.
How We Tested?
If water is not available, try an alcohol-based hand gel. If used properly, these can be at least as effective as hand washing in destroying bacteria and viruses for maximum effectiveness of alcohol-based hand gels:
The hands must not be visibly soiled; otherwise, the alcohol-based hand gel won’t work as well.
The hand gel must contain between 60 and 70 percent alcohol. (Look for one that also contains a moisturizer, since alcohol can be very drying to the hands.)
It takes the alcohol about 15 to 20 seconds to rupture the bacteria’s cell wall. Therefore, you must use enough of the gel that it takes at least 15 to 20 seconds of rubbing to dry; otherwise, it won’t be as effective.
Consumer Observ ation
Godrej Protekt: provides a choice in “original”, “blossom” and “citrus” types, although ingredients listed are the same and “fragrance” is not specified except in its name on front label. Packaging looks the same except in the colour of the plastic bottles.
Good Look: It has a transparent bottle and liquid but the colour is a turquoise blue, which is the same as those of toilet cleaners, hence a little off putting for most consumers. The packaging or the bottle shape is also a little inconvenient, as it requires a lot of space on the hand basin. Calls itself “Good Look” but doesn’t live up to its name. The name is also not perceived to be appropriate to its function.
Dettol: bottle says “Original”, though other variations, if any are not easily available. It also says “10 times better” but doesn’t specify “than what”. Dettol also has the provision for the refill pack. This brand is seen as one of the trusted brand.
Lifebuoy: Like dettol, Lifebuoy is perceived as an old trusted brand of products. It retains its colour range of red and white (other fragrances are available in other colours). Thus, providing continuity of association in consumer minds. It has as attractive differently shaped bottle as compared to most others. Also has provision for a “refill.
Savlon: Simple, no nonsense bottle claims to be just a "liquid handwash" for “gentle protection”. Does not list any “parabens”. Also seen as a trusted brand.
Externa: Handwash claims to provide "germ defense" with “triclo-activities”, which most consumers are not familiar with. Also, includes a cautionary note, unlike most brands.
Palmolive: Palmolive has a fragrance similar to their shaving gel, which did not find easy acceptance with female users. It has a transparent, attractive bottle with transparent liquid, perceived by some users to be preferable to the creamy type. Many consumers are similarly attracted to transparent cake soaps.
Santoor: Experiments with the bottle design and shape, but that does not seem to add to its profile. Most consumers chose to discard it prior to use and wanted brands that they are more familiar with in the