Assalamu Alaikum,

The use of anti-microbial products has become commonplace in our society. Products claiming to kill 99+% of all germs and microbes are readily available as foams, lotions, and liquids for personal use or for sanitizing household items, including in laundry detergents. Hospitals and many business offices have dispensers scattered around for patrons to use. Do we really need all of this?

We all certainly want to be germ free but should we want to be totally microbe free? Is that even possible?

There are billions and billions of microbes and they can be found everywhere on earth: in the soil, plants, animals, and even in the human body. Most of these microbes play a beneficial role, providing useful functions that make life more pleasant for us. A small percentage are harmful and may cause illness or damage. Are we going overboard in trying to live a microbe-free life?

Studies have shown that the majority of bacteria are removed by washing with clean water. Whether on our hands, clothes, or eating implements, thorough washing with water will remove most of the microbes. Cleaning with regular soap products and drying or wiping with a clean towel removes most of the remaining ones. There is usually no need to use stronger products if water, soap, and a clean towel are available. Use of these stronger anti-microbial products also kills many of the beneficial microbes, possibly resulting in discomfort or illness. Furthermore, the harmful bacteria are rather resilient and often become resistant to the chemicals used to kill them. They can adapt to the new environment and evolve into super bugs which become even more harmful and more difficult to destroy.

To promote new loan applications, my bank was offering cookies along with a hand sanitizer to sanitize the hand before taking the cookie. Is that overkill? Anti-microbial and anti-bacterial products have a use in environments where soap and clean water are not readily available or where the likelihood of harmful bacteria being present is high and they should definitely be used in such situations. Flooded areas, deep woods camping, and hospitals are some examples of places and situations where using these products makes sense. That is why we have certified a number of anti-microbial products. However, we should not overuse these products when soap and clean water are available and will likely get the job done.


Muhammad Munir Chaudry, president