‘Dirty secrets’ about dishwashing solutionsBy Rafael Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
We’ve discussed previously how some of the things we commonly use can be bacterial breeding grounds, which can cause all sorts of infections for us and our loved ones. One of these is the cellular phone which has been shown to have more bacteria than a toilet bowl seat. Similarly in the same category are dishwashing bar solutions, which a study by the Philippine Society of Microbiology (PSM) has demonstrated to have 10 times the bacterial count of dirty socks, and more than twice dirtier than a thrash bin cover.
This local study duplicates a previously published Japanese study which also measured the presence of bacteria in common household items. The Japanese scientist-researchers found that a dishwashing sponge was contaminated with many types of harmful bacteria such as Escherichia Coli, which can cause diarrhea in adults and children; Staphylococcus Aureus, which causes food poisoning; and Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, which leads to opportunistic infections particularly in the very young, elderly and those with a weakened immune system.
Bacterial breeding ground
The local study was presented by former PSM president Dr. Jessica Simbahan. It used a luminometer or germ-measuring device to determine the level of contaminants in a dishwashing bar solution and household items commonly perceived as dirty like dirty socks, toilet bowl seats and thrash bin covers. The researchers took sample swabs from the household items and analyzed its bacterial content with the luminometer.
“A dishwashing bar solution is a breeding ground for contaminants, including bacteria and other types of germs. This is especially true if the laundry bar is left exposed for many hours and the dishwashing sponge is constantly wet,” says current PSM president, Dr. Supachai Basit. She recommends that sponges must be kept dry when not being used, and dishwashing bar solutions must be discarded. Needless to say, sanitation in the kitchen environment and proper hand washing are important pointers to prevent bacterial infection.
Being a bacterial breeding ground is not the only possible adverse effect of dishwashing solutions. Consumers must also read the label for the ingredients they contain. The concern of health experts is that many conventional dishwashing solutions contain petroleum-based compounds like sodium lauryl sulfate and diethanolamine (DEA), which when combined, can produce cancer-causing substances known as nitrosamines.
Some liquid dishwashing products may also contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives like dimethylimidazolidine (DMDM) hydantoin, which is another probable carcinogen, and it irritates the skin and respiratory tract. Incidentally, DMDM hydantoin is also mixed in some shampoos and cosmetics to prevent molds, mildews, and bacterial spoilage.
Environmentalists are also protesting the use of triclosan-like chemicals in some liquid dishwashing solutions. True enough, they are effective bacterial killers but it also stays in the environment and gets converted to dioxin when in water and exposed to sunlight, forming chloroform. Some cleaners contain the chemical sodium hypochlorite, better known as chlorine bleach. It is another potent environmental pollutant. If you note mildly pungent fumes when using these dishwater solutions, it’s likely the solution contains chlorine bleach. And it can harm both the skin and eyes.
Dr. Stuart Levy, professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, airs the warnings of scientists worldwide that the overuse of antibacterial products in household items such as dishwashing solutions could cause some bacteria to become resistant to treatment and these can severely affect some people’s immune system.
Everyone is now aware what a specter the prospect of a treatment-resistant superbug brings. Let us not be unwitting accessories to this grave possibility. Hopefully, too, we do not become unknowing victims of the “dirty secrets” of dishwashing solutions.
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