Sanitisers hand us a new problem
Alcohol-based replacements for water may fuel bacteria proliferation
Cape Town has stared down a drought that threatened to shut down its water supplies, which would have been a disaster resulting from a catastrophic climate event in a city of 3.74 million. When the winter rains came a few months ago, the city celebrated the end of a crisis mitigated through an extraordinary display of civic-mindedness, moral solidarity and good luck. A small but significant water-saving measure was the widespread introduction of hand sanitisers. Typically, only one tap runs now in public-access toilets to encourage people to use wall-mounted hand sanitisers instead. But, as any student of evolution would immediately realise, this may contribute to a new problem. The hand sanitisers are alcohol based, and certain bugs (bacteria such as Enterococcus faecium and Clostridium difficile in particular) are increasingly able to tolerate, survive and flourish in this environment, while others are knocked out efficiently. Bacteria — free-living organisms — predate humans by m...
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.