It turns out that probiotics not only help maintain a healthy gut, they can also fight household dirt.
When Samantha Kitchen worked for Radic8, a company that develops and markets indoor air purifiers, she and her team discovered a curious thing. They had been testing the schools and found that the levels of pollutants in the air were higher after the cleaners had entered. That led them to question the health implications of using chemicals to clean schools, homes and public buildings. Did products that were designed to keep people safe from pathogens really contribute to poor health?
“We were trying to take a step back and look at indoor air quality as holistic. So not only get rid of air pollution once you’ve created it, but also how to stop producing it, ”Kitchen says. The answer was almost too obvious. “Cleaning products are one of the biggest producers of indoor air pollution.Why don’t we stop using them? ”She and the team asked.
Fast forward to July 2019 and We are probiotics was born, a startup with the goal of revolutionizing the cleaning industry by delivering “good bacteria” to household dirt and grime instead of chemicals. But how do probiotic cleaning products really work? Aren’t they more at home in a yogurt pot than on our kitchen and bathroom surfaces?
Surfaces are recontaminated shortly after using some cleaning chemicals. Image: Nordwood Themes
Marketing around traditional cleaning products tends to position bacteria as public enemy number one. They must be killed, crushed, disposed of, and chemicals are the only way to do it, the narrative says. While chemical agents do in fact do what they say on the can, so to speak, researchers have found that surfaces can become re-contaminated very soon after cleaning.
“Approximately 30-60 minutes after the use of chemical disinfectants, the amount of microbial contamination returns to the same level detected before the use of cleaning chemicals,” says Elisabetta Caselli, associate professor and president of clinical microbiology at the University of Ferrara at Italy.
On the contrary, probiotics are effective at controlling microbe levels for much longer. The guy who uses We Are Probiotic, LactobacilliThey can stay active for up to three days, Kitchen says, and effectively continue to “clean” long after they’ve been applied. Lactobacilli are in fact the type found in yogurt, but Bacilli Probiotics, found in intestinal supplements and agricultural products, can also be used. Surprisingly, in a 2016 study performed by Caselli in hospitals, Bacilli stayed active on surfaces and detergents for weeks instead of days.
Cleaning products are one of the biggest producers of indoor air pollution, so why don’t we stop using them?
Here’s how it works: With each spray, an army of billions of probiotics or “good” bacteria is released. But instead of fiercely descending on their enemies, ‘bad’ bacteria and viruses, they simply eat your food and your home, chewing until there is nothing left. “It’s basically power in numbers,” Kitchen explains. “They are competing with anything else that could be harmful. They are not killing anything directly, but they are occupying food and space and making it impossible for the things that we do not want to live on that surface to survive. “
Not only do they delight in dirt and grime, but they also eat the slimy structure that pathogens live in, the biofilm. Meanwhile, the pathogens wither away. “Nothing in nature has survived starvation,” Kitchen says.
A Canadian study linked disinfectants to childhood obesity. Image: Damir Spanic
Are cleaning chemicals harmful?
While cleaning products must comply with regulations To be sold in the UK, common sense would suggest that the regular use of products that bear the symbol of a skull and crossbones, or at least smell toxic, could have health implications. And households with pets and young children will be especially aware of the propensity of these family members to crawl into cupboards or toilets that they shouldn’t. Young children generally spend a lot of time on the floor and cannot resist the temptation to put their hands in their mouths.
Intuition aside, studies have found links between the use of chemical cleaners and health. A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that Regular and prolonged use of cleansing sprays resulted in reduced lung function that was comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Other Canadian study found that children whose mothers used disinfectant cleaners were more likely to be obese or overweight by age three. By looking at the stool samples, they found that these children had fewer “good” bacteria in their digestive tracts.
Many household cleaners also carry the warning “harmful to aquatic life with long-lasting effects.” And while sewer and water treatment systems are generally effective in filtering chemicals that are washed down drains, this caveat would certainly be true if a large volume of undiluted cleaning product were found in the natural environment.
While Caselli admits that the research on probiotic cleansing is relatively new, it is promising. In his study, he found that they were not only effective, but also helped reduce the levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria species in the hospital. Antibiotic resistance, where bacteria evolve to protect themselves from antimicrobials, has long been a serious concern among scientists. And it might get worse in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the increased use of chemical cleaners, says Caselli. This, in turn, could set the stage for “a future pandemic of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms,” he says. “The use of probiotics could prevent this potential risk.”
A kinder option for people and the planet.
Kitchen is naturally also very excited about the prospects and also wants to emphasize the environmental benefits. “By reducing the use of chemicals, the burden on sewage systems is relieved. It means less toxic chemicals going into waterways, rivers and killing fish. Every person we persuade to stop using these harmful chemicals is a reduction in that burden. “
The We Are Probiotics system works by subscription; customers simply order sachets of probiotics and add them to the water in refillable spray bottles provided by the company. This eliminates the need to use and dispose of a new plastic bottle each time it runs out, and shipping emissions are saved as only lightweight envelopes are shipped rather than lots of water.
It could be a good way to keep not only your home clean, but your conscience as well.
Lead Image: Katja Bayer