Your favorite grocery store is most likely dispensing them for wiping down carts, your local gym may have them on hand for cleaning exercise equipment, and your school may be handing them to schoolchildren to scrub their tables and chairs. I was shocked to find that our local elementary school requested that each child bring antibacterial wipes as a “school supply.” These “convenient” products have hidden hazards that should worry us, in addition to the fact that they are disposable, thus creating throwaway garbage.
What are they made from?
The most common ingredients present in these products are quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats” for short, and chemicals such as alky dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride and benzalkonium chloride. The American Medical Association (AMA) discourages manufacturers use of antibacterial compounds in consumer products as they can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Additionally, the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, a leading international organization on asthma, considers these harmful chemical compounds to be what they call “asthmagens” that trigger asthma attacks in people even if they haven’t presented with the illnesses previously. Actual studies revealed that the multitude of fragrances emitted by antibacterial wipes are composed of untested chemicals like phthalates and synthetic musks which are considered to be hormone disruptors and whose use can lead to hormonal disorders.
Reports from studies organized in the United Kingdom stated that antibacterial wipes commonly used in hospitals to kill otherwise harmful infections were actually responsible for the spreading of drug-resistant bacteria. The research was presented at a conference organized by an American Society of Microbiology in Boston, USA. The discussion concentrated on bacteria such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus or MRSA and VRE, or Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus, both which have been associated with outbreaks of hospital-acquired (nosocomial) infections.