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Anti-germ products may be adding to antibiotic resistance: Study

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 12, 2012

Simple hygiene habits, such as washing hands with soap, can make a lot of difference to overall health. But, of late, Indian homes have been awash with "anti-bacterial products", such as hand sanitisers and cleaners.

While the efficacy of these products is not under question, a consumer research organisation says the long-term harm that overuse of these products can cause is by contributing to emerging antibiotic resistance in the country.

With swine flu, gastric and other respiratory diseases growing by the year, anti-bacterials, such as triclosan, are being added to an increasing number of personal and home care products, says a study by Ahmedabad-based Consumer Education & Research Society (CERS) and its international partner, CHOICE, Australia.

According to their findings, published in the latest issue of consumer magazine Insight, while anti-bacterial soaps and cleansers are needed in healthcare set-ups such as clinics and hospitals, they provide little benefit in homes.

The findings say that since anti-bacterials do not distinguish between bacteria, these can destroy good bacteria, which are vital for sound human health. Also, riclosan, the most common anti-bacterial ingredient, could be an endocrine disrupter as it interferes with both thyroid and sex hormones, the findings say.

Busting the hype around products that claim to remove 99 per cent germs, the study says soap and water are equally good, if not better, in keeping away infections.

However, certain consumers who agree with the findings say that these products are selling on account of convenience and portability. "Since soap and water may not be available everywhere, it helps to keep a small hand-sanitizer bottle in my bag," says a Delhi college girl.

Among the companies making these products are Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), Colgate-Palmolive (India) Ltd and Reckitt-Benckiser (India). But, when these companies were approached to seek their views on the use of anti-bacterials in their products and its consequences, Reckitt Benckiser did not respond, while the other firms were non-committal, CERS said in a release.

>aditi.n@thehindu.co.in

Published on April 12, 2012

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