Study shows overusing disinfectants can contribute to health problems

We’ve all used a lot of disinfectants, especially since the pandemic – but according to a new study, we might be using them too much.

"This idea that we need to just blanket disinfect everything is impractical and actually unhelpful," said Erica Hartmann, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern University.

Hartmann is one of about two dozen researchers who worked on the study, published this week in the journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

The study shows that the overuse of disinfectants – items like antibacterial hand soaps, disinfectant wipes, and more – is actually contributing to health problems, environmental problems, and antimicrobial resistance too.

It’s all because of something found in the products called quaternary ammonium compounds, also known as QACs.

"It’s everything from sprays to surface wipes to all kinds of different cleaning products," Hartmann explained.

So, what do we do about it? The researchers said just using more soap and water would be a good start.

"You would want to disinfect if you’re in the kitchen, and you’re doing food prep, and you’re worried about, ‘I just handled raw chicken, and now I’m about to chop vegetables,’" Hartmann said as an example. "You don’t need to disinfect if you’re just sweeping crumbs off your counter."

Hartmann also stressed that more research needs to be done.

To read the full study, you can find it here.