PULLMAN, Wash. - You may be working harder than ever to keep from
getting the flu this season, wiping down everything from doorknobs to
countertops, but a new report says sometimes, being too clean can also
be hazardous to your health. It links the overuse of disinfectant
chemicals to a wide range of health problems, including chronic
illnesses such as asthma, hormone imbalance and immune system problems.
The report, Disinfectant Overkill: How Too Clean May Be Hazardous to
Our Health, cites more than 40 peer-reviewed reports and scientific
studies illustrating the health impacts of chemicals found in common
Pullman resident Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research for Women's Voices for the Earth
authored the report. She says the recent flu scare has put everyone's
focus on killing germs with disinfectants, but she says there's a
downside to that extra vigilance.
"The chemicals are really very strong, which is why they're effective
at doing what they do - killing germs. We want users to be very
cautious when they use them."
While chemical companies try to convince consumers they need to
sterilize their homes every day to protect their families from illness,
Scranton says plain soap and water can be just as effective. She
advises that the stronger cleaners be used sparingly.
"You want to do sort of targeted disinfection. You don't need to do it
every day; you want to focus on those surfaces that are frequently
touched - door knobs or light switches; that kind of thing."
Research highlights ammonia and ammonium compounds, chlorine bleach and
tricolsan as examples of common disinfectant ingredients linked to
irritation, cancers, reproductive problems and respiratory issues,
according to Scranton. Studies have found two chemicals commonly found
in antibacterial soap in the bodies of nearly 75 percent of people
tested. She says the chemicals may have hormone-disrupting effects,
which can lead to premature puberty and reproductive abnormalities.
Cleaning chemical companies say their products are safe and effective when used as directed.
The full report, Disinfectant Overkill: How Too Clean May be Hazardous to Our Health, is at.