Anti-microbial chemicals in household dust

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Antimicrobials are in many consumer products from shower heads to staplers to Kitchen countertops and cutting boards. (KFSN)

Veronica Hewgley keeps a clean kitchen and is picky about the gadgets and utensils she uses.

"When shopping, I chose the plastic cutting boards because I could put them in the dishwasher to make sure they got clean and sanitized."

We checked and at least one of Hewgley's cutting boards has antimicrobial protection. Antimicrobials are in many consumer products from shower heads to staplers to Kitchen countertops and cutting boards.

Leading producer Microban told us the chemicals "create an inhospitable environment for bacteria, mold, and mildew that keeps products cleaner between cleanings."

"When we label something as antimicrobial, I think the public perception is really that this product will keep you healthy, and we have no evidence to support that," said Dr. Erica Hartmann, Northwestern University.

"For a product to contain an antimicrobial, I would think it's to keep the bacteria off of me," said Hewgley.

Antimicrobials in plastics and other consumer products are regulated by the EPA as pesticides. But Dr. Hartmann said, in those cases, it's up to a company whether to tell you antimicrobials are in a product.

"My research specifically looks at concentrations of antimicrobial chemicals in indoor dust."

They're showing up in large quantities, but it's the main chemical, triclosan, that Dr. Hartmann says is causing the biggest concern.

"What's really concerning about my results is that where we find more Triclosan, we find more genes coding for resistance to antibiotic drugs that we use quite frequently."

There is also evidence that antimicrobials, especially triclosan, contribute to antibiotic resistance.

"If we continue to use these chemicals in such high volumes for an extended period of time, we could get to the point where I would say, actually, we do need to really be concerned about this," said Dr. Hartmann.

Microban tells us it does not use triclosan, and their antimicrobial solutions "will not leach out uncontrollably."

Health experts say right now, it is up to the manufacturer whether to disclose which specific chemicals are used.

If you want to know what's in some of your home products, it's best to call a manufacturer and ask questions.

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