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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Pace

Anti-Microbials Under the MicroscopeExploring Their Efficacy and Potential Concerns

By Andy Pace, Healthy Home Expert \and Founder of the Green Design Center


The world is finally getting past the Covid pandemic.Containers are moving around the world, manufacturers have ramped production back up and the restrictions we all faced have gone away for the most part. But the memories are fresh and I know that none of us want to ever face this again.A prime example is the inclusion of new chemical additives that home goods manufactures are launching as their way to help ward off future health issues.That’s good, right?Not so fast.


Be careful what you ask for.

A saying that dates back to Biblical times, yet could not be more appropriate for what we are facing in the indoor home environment today. It used to be that just keeping surfaces clean and dry would be enough. Well, it still is, but that doesn’t sell well on a marketing piece. We need to see words like anti-bacterial, anti-viral and mold resistant before we even consider some items for the home. It’s comforting to know that the flooring material you install or the paint you apply is helping to somehow “stop the spread”. But the chemicals used to achieve such goals need to be vetted far better than they are now.




MI (Methylisothiazolinone) and MCI (Methylchloroisothiazolinone) are commonly used as anti-microbial additives in thousands of brands of cleaners, cosmetics, shampoo, paints & coatings, among other things.


While these additives may have a positive effect on knocking out nasty microbes that could land on the surface, the negative effects on the human occupants need to be explored in greater detail. According to a report released in 2014 by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety:


"The dramatic rise in the rates of reported cases of contact allergy to MI, as detected by diagnostic patch tests, is unprecedented in Europe; there have been repeated warnings about the rise. The increase is primarily caused by increasing consumer exposure to MI from cosmetic products; exposures to MI in household products, paints and in the occupational setting also need to be considered. The delay in re-evaluation of the safety of MI in cosmetic products is of concern to the SCCS; it has adversely affected consumer safety.”

"The dramatic rise in the rates of reported cases of contact allergy to MI, as detected by diagnostic patch tests, is unprecedented in Europe; there have been repeated warnings about the rise. The increase is primarily caused by increasing consumer exposure to MI from cosmetic products; exposures to MI in household products, paints and in the occupational setting also need to be considered. The delay in re-evaluation of the safety of MI in cosmetic products is of concern to the SCCS; it has adversely affected consumer safety.”


"The dramatic rise in the rates of reported cases of contact allergy to MI, as detected by diagnostic patch tests, is unprecedented in Europe; there have been repeated warnings about the rise. The increase is primarily caused by increasing consumer exposure to MI from cosmetic products; exposures to MI in household products, paints and in the occupational setting also need to be considered. The delay in re-evaluation of the safety of MI in cosmetic products is of concern to the SCCS; it has adversely affected consumer safety.”



Studies are now showing that some viruses exposed to quats have developed cross-resistance to all sorts of antibiotics.

One of the most well-known additives is Microban. Used extensively throughout the consumer goods and building material industries, the word has become synonymous with “clean”. 75% of all hand soaps in the world contained Microban at one point. Cooking utensils and other surfaces that are considered food-safe are coated with this for our protection. However, Microban is actually an anti-fungal called triclosan, which has been directly linked to hormone and endocrine disruption, contact dermatitis, and ecotoxicity.


I could go on and on about these additives, but I’m sure by now your mind is already rifling through the kitchen to think of what needs to be thrown out. But to be replaced with what?


Safe Alternatives

Coatings such as Caliwel can be used on surfaces that are prone to mold and mildew. It uses lime, a ground-found mineral, to raise the surface pH so high (above 12) that mold cannot sustain. This natural, human-safe ingredient eliminates the need for many of the synthetic chemicals that I listed above. For mold remediation, it can be applied directly over active mold without first scraping, vacuuming, and washing.


Additives that use silver ions, zinc, and copper, are now being introduced in flooring, paints, cleaners, and manufactured wood products. These naturally anti-microbial metals have been known for centuries, but only recently have we seen their usage in consumer goods.


Of course, good old-fashioned soap and hot water can be one of the most effective methods to eliminate the nasties from just about any surface of the home. Yes, it’s more labor-intensive. And yes, you need to be careful of how much moisture it adds to the surface so that you don’t create a new mold problem. But it works the way it has for thousands of years, long before we traded our own health for ease and convenience. This is why you really do need to be careful of what you ask for.



By Andy Pace, Healthy Home Expert and Founder of The Green Design Center



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