LETTER- Plain soap will do

What's really sad about the current disinfection discussion ["Coming clean: Board weighs in on disinfection debate," July 24] is the display of ignorance coupled with unfounded fear that guides decisions made by many people nowadays.

Dr. Thomas Pajewski, a member of the school board's health advisory board, says, "It's important to clean high-touch areas as thoroughly as possible, even if these areas become re-contaminated after a single use."

This is exactly what does happen, thus illustrating what a waste of time and money it is to disinfect. Yet people feel they should do it anyway because of over-exaggerated fears. The reality is that the majority of microbes (probably about 99 percent) pose no harm at all to humans.

Then this doctor says that "you need to start somewhere" because "the alternative is to let things accumulate." These statements suggest ignorance. Things– meaning bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms– do not "accumulate" if you simply wash the area with plain soap and water.  And such simple sanitation should be the main focus of public bathroom cleaning because unsanitary situations are the main source of spreading illness.

The smart way to keep children from contracting serious infectious diseases (colds not included because kids need to be exposed to these illnesses when they are young in order to get their immune systems up and running) is to teach them and their teachers to keep hands clean; keep hands away from eyes, nose, and mouth; keep cuts and scrapes covered; and do not share personal items, such as towels.

The school board chairman asks, "How much green can we afford?" The answer is that the schools and our local governments throw away plenty of green (money) on special products that are not even needed. Soap is cheap, and soap is what should be used.

I just hope these people are wise enough to do away with antibacterial soaps/cleaning agents that are well known to have helped create "superbugs," such as MRSA– the bacteria that is perhaps the cause of this current obsession with "germs."

How ironic that people's misplaced fear and consequent behavior is what brings about ever more virulent organisms that truly are fearsome.

Marlene A. Condon



"The smart way to keep children from contracting serious infectious diseases (colds not included because kids need to be exposed to these illnesses when they are young in order to get their immune systems up and running) is to teach them and their teachers to keep hands clean; keep hands away from eyes, nose, and mouth; keep cuts and scrapes covered; and do not share personal items, such as towels." The effectiveness of this training will probably equal that of STD prevention.

It is quite scary this ignorance is coming from a doctor, and this doctor is on the school's
"Health" advisory board. No wonder kids health is tanking while drug profits rise. Better add an asthma inhaler to your child's back-to-school list. Looks like they're going to need it.

MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Methicillin is an antibiotic NOT an antibacterial soap/cleaning agent!! Superbugs are becoming more resistant due to the overuse of antibiotics! As to the environment, many pathogens can survive for weeks to months on surfaces! Soap is NOT what you should use! Using soap and water has no effect on most of these pathogens. You are just moving them from place to place and actually causing more harm than good. Studies are beginning to show that disinfection of high touch surfaces will reduce the infection rate. The problem is that one study showed cleaners missing 49% of the surfaces in hospital rooms! Using the proper tools to disinfect surfaces will make a tremendous difference! That is what we are trying to accomplish with Sterilray!

From the Mayo Clinic: Warding off germs and infection--What's the best way to stay disease-free? Prevent infections from happening in the first place. You can prevent infection through simple tactics such as regular hand washing.
Often overlooked, hand washing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself from germs and most infections. Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing or eating food, after coughing or sneezing, after changing a diaper and after using the toilet. When soap and water aren't readily available, alcohol-based hand-sanitizing gels can offer protection.
From Marlene: In short, people selling products often use scare-mongering to convince folks of the need to purchase their products. Schools are not hospitals where sick people are more susceptible--in a variety of ways, such as via catheters--to infection.

I agree with Mr. Neister. An excellent summary of current thinking is here:
or google:
Bacteria's in the air, everywhere we look around
It states:
Yet, until recently, this was not the case and infection prevention and control strategies have focused primarily on good hand hygiene and isolation nursing of colonised or infected patients. By comparison, relatively little attention was paid to the cleanliness of the clinical environment – possibly because of the fact that the contribution of environmental contamination to the spread of nosocomial pathogens such as MRSA remains ill characterised. However, there is accumulating evidence to suggest that the environment may play a more important role than hitherto acknowledged – not only for MRSA but also for CDAD and infections associated with other bacteria such as Acinetobacter baumannii. Patient and public concern over the potential role that the hospital environment might play in the epidemiology of healthcare associated infection was recognised with the announcement of the programme of deep cleaning of hospitals, which was due to be completed by March of this year. Although this initiative has generated much debate as to its likely effectiveness, it appears to represent a shift in approach to the containment of healthcare associated infection, with a tacit recognition that environmental contamination can contribute, at least in part, to the spread and persistence of some pathogens.

While schools are not hospitals, they deserve the same attention to infection control. MRSA and other superbugs are becoming a major problem in the community. soap and water or even gels will not wash away the problem.

Interesting discussion. More info below -

EPA Cites USA's Largest Hospital Disinfectant Manufacturer For False Claims
“…The largest U.S. manufacturer of hospital disinfectants has been charged with making false claims about the effectiveness of its products against microbial pests,…” http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/72180.php

British Hospitals Ban Disinfectant
“Hospitals in Britain have halted the use of a disinfectant because it may cause skin and respiratory problems."

Hospitals Clean out Allergy, Asthma Triggers
“Hospital officials have long been aware that cleaning chemicals and other substances may pose harm,…”

From the Center's for Disease Control:
Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol7no3_supp/levy.htm

The Journal of the American Medical Association:
Disninfectants are Pesticides -
Acute Illnesses Associated With Pesticide Exposure at Schools
“Most illnesses were associated with…disinfectants (n = 830, 32%)"

Allegheny County Health Department:
“Asthma triggers that children may encounter in the school environment include industrial strength cleaners, disinfectants and pesticides.”

LA Times:
Scientists warn a germ-phobic nation against going too far “…attempt to better understand how our allergy and asthma-wracked bodies may be the casualties of overkill.”