Tag Archives: cleaning

That make-up you’re using? It’s probably riddled with superbugs

Make-up is used by millions of people every day, but they might want to reconsider that after reading a new study.

Researchers from Aston University in Birmingham, UK, have found dangerous microbes such as E.coli and Staphylococci in more than nine out of ten in-use beauty products.

Make-up products are almost never cleaned, and they are often used far beyond their expiration date. In fact, for many of the products, it would be realistically impossible to use them within the expiration date.

A total of 467 make-up products were analyzed. The products were donated by consumers from the UK, following a social media campaign (donors also answered a few questions about make-up habits). This comprised of lipstick (96), eyeliner (92), mascara (93), lip-gloss (107) and beauty blenders (79).

When the team scanned these for pathogens, the results were pretty concerning. The bacteria found in these beauty products range from pathogens that can cause skin infections to some that can cause blood infections, particularly if they are used on sensitive tissue such as eyes or mouth. Given that make-up is sometimes applied over areas with cuts or grazes, the risk of infection with opportunistic bacteria is even higher, particularly in immunocompromised people.

The vast majority of the products were never cleaned — only 6.4% of all collected samples had ever been cleaned. Potentially unsanitary practices were also common: 27.3% of products (largely eyeliner), had been applied in a bathroom, and 28.7% of products had been dropped on the floor.

Beauty blenders, sponges used to apply skin foundation products, were among the biggest culprits. They’ve recently become a sensation in the make-up world, but 35.6% of beauty blenders were used or stored in a bathroom, and 64.4% had been dropped on the floor at least once. As you’d expect from a sponge, the beauty blenders tend to absorb water, dirt, and bacteria, which makes them excellent hosts for all sorts of unwanted bugs.

“Beauty blenders have only been recently introduced as an application product and limited information is available on how best to use or clean them. Our results have shown that these products carried the highest bacterial load during use and more than a quarter were contaminated with Enterobacteriaceae,” the study reads. Several Enterobacteriaceae strains have been shown to be antibiotic-resistant.

Sharing makeup products and makeup testers found on beauty counters may also provide a route for contamination and infection researchers say. Testers are not commonly cleaned regularly, and are often left exposed to the environment and to passing customers.

Although previous research has suggested that make-up products can have disease risk, this is one of the very few studies that analyzes products coming from the real world — and is probably the first one to look at beauty blenders. It’s estimated that 6.5 million such sponges are sold every year, and the figure continues to grow as they are endorsed by celebrities. Since these products are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, they should be looked at more closely, researchers warn.

Brushes and sponges are great environments for bacteria to reproduce and spread, researchers warn.

The study also highlights that consumers are putting themselves at risk — and they are probably doing so unwittingly (how many consumers out there are aware that beauty blenders are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria?). Producers and regulators should take more action to protect consumers. Cosmetic regulations clearly state that products should not contain pathogenic. organisms, yet 70-90% of all used products were contaminated with bacteria.

Commenting on the new findings, co-author Dr. Amreen Bashir said:

“Consumers’ poor hygiene practices when it comes to using make-up, especially beauty blenders, is very worrying when you consider that we found bacteria such as E.coli – which is linked with faecal contamination – breeding on the products we tested.

“More needs to be done to help educate consumers and the make-up industry as a whole about the need to wash beauty blenders regularly and dry them thoroughly, as well as the risks of using make-up beyond its expiry date.”

There are even more reasons to worry when you consider that make-up products in the European Union are subject to much more scrutiny than those in other parts of the world. EU guidance holds make-up brands to strict hygiene standards of manufacture. People in the US, for instance, are at a much greater risk because the cleanliness of make-up products is less regulated, and there are no requirements to put expiry dates on make-up packaging.

The study has been published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology

Women who regularly use cleaning supplies risk lung damage, study shows

Researchers discovered that women who cleaned on a regular basis using cleaning supplies are more likely to experience a greater decline in lung function than the ones who didn’t clean.

Via Pixabay/klimkin

According to the study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the participants enrolled at the average age of 34 and were followed for more than 20 years.The lung damage recorded by the scientists is compared to smoking 20 cigarettes a day over the same period. Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway analyzed data from 6,235 participants in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey and discovered the that the women who cleaned had the following results, as compared to women who did not clean:

  • Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), or the amount of air a person can forcibly exhale in one second, declined 3.6 millilitres (ml)/year faster in women who cleaned at home and 3.9 ml/year faster in women who worked as cleaners.
  • Forced vital capacity (FVC), or the total amount of air a person can forcibly exhale, declined 4.3 ml/year faster in women who cleaned at home and 7.1 ml/year faster in women who worked as cleaners.

When asked about the reason for the research, senior study author Cecile Svanes, MD, PhD, a professor at the university’s Centre for International Health answered:

“While the short-term effects of cleaning chemicals on asthma are becoming increasingly well documented, we lack knowledge of the long-term impact,” she said.

“We feared that such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age.”

The results, even if surprising at first because of the high lung impairment, are justified, believes Svanes — for example, inhaling particles of cleaning agents meant for the household, and not for the lungs is, basically, bad for one’s health. No surprise in that.

Doctors suggest that repeatedly inhaling particles of cleaning products affects the airways by causing the mucous membranes lining the airways to become irritated, which over time results in persistent changes in the airways and airway remodelling.

Additionally, the researchers did find that asthma was more prevalent in women who cleaned at home (12.3 percent) or at work (13.7 percent) compared to those who did not clean (9.6 percent).

I know, I know, until now, the study seems pretty sexist.

The researchers did study a group of men who worked in the cleaning business and compared their results to non-cleaning men and found out that there are no significant differences in the decline of FEV1 or FVC between the two groups.

The study has some limitations: the study population included very few women who did not clean at home or work. The authors believe this group of women “constitute a selected socioeconomic group”. Also, the number of participating men working in the cleaning business was small, and doctors think that their exposure to cleaning agents was likely different from that of women who worked as cleaning professionals.

“The take home message of this study is that in the long run cleaning chemicals very likely cause rather substantial damage to your lungs,” Øistein Svanes, a co-author of the study, said. “These chemicals are usually unnecessary; microfiber cloths and water are more than enough for most purposes.”

So, girls, if you are tired of cleaning all the time, showing this study to your masculine other halves might get you out of a bunch of chores. Just sit back, relax, and let science work in your favour!


Nano-enhanced textiles could lead us to a brighter future with no laundry

Tired of laundry day? Pioneering nano research into self-cleaning textiles could soon make cleaning your clothes as easy as hanging them out on a sunny day.

Cotton textile fibers and nanostructures. Image magnified 200 times.
Image credits RMIT University

A team from the Ian Potter NanoBioSensing Facility and NanoBiotechnology Research Lab at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a cheap and efficient method of incorporating nanostructures which degrade organic when exposed to light directly into textile fibers. Thier new production technology could pave the way for clothes that can shrug off grime and slime when put under a light bulb or worn out in the sun.

When exposed to light, the nanostructures release so-called hot electrons — particles that gain very high kinetic energy after being accelerated by a strong, high intensity electrical field within a semiconductor. These electrons then consume their energy to degrade organic matter stuck in the weave around them. The researchers worked with copper and silver-based compounds to create their nanostructures, as these are known for their ability to absorb visible wavelength intervals of light.

The color red indicates the presence of silver nanoparticles. The image shows a full coverage of the material with nanostructures grown by the RMIT team. Image magnified 200 times.
Image credits RMIT University

Self-cleaning clothes aren’t a new concept. But the RMIT team aimed to develop a method that would allow active structures to be permanently attached to the fibers and be usable on an industrial scale at the same time. Their novel solution was to grow them directly onto the materials by dipping these into a series of chemical solutions. The whole process takes roughly 30 minutes and results in extremely stable nanostructures.

During laboratory tests, it took less than six minutes of light exposure for the nano-enhanced fabrics to spontaneously clean themselves.

Nanostructures grown on cotton textiles by RMIT University researchers. Image magnified 150,000 times.
Image credits RMIT University

“The advantage of textiles is they already have a 3D structure so they are great at absorbing light, which in turn speeds up the process of degrading organic matter,” said Lead researcher Dr Rajesh Ramanathan.

Dr Ramanathan says that the process has a variety of possible applications in catalysis-based industries such as agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and natural products, and can be easily scaled up to industrial levels.

“Our next step will be to test our nano-enhanced textiles with organic compounds that could be more relevant to consumers, to see how quickly they can handle common stains like tomato sauce or wine.”

“There’s more work to do to before we can start throwing out our washing machines, but this advance lays a strong foundation for the future development of fully self-cleaning textiles,” Ramanathan concluded.

The full paper, titled “Robust Nanostructured Silver and Copper Fabrics with Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance Property for Effective Visible Light Induced Reductive Catalysis” has been published online in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces and is available here.



Homes cleaned with bleach linked to higher rate of infection in children

Homes cleaned at least once a week with bleach might provide an environment that puts children at a higher risk of catching viral infections. The observational study suggests the modest, yet significant higher risk of infection may be due to a suppression of the immune system. Also, it might very well be due to the irritant properties of volatile or airborne compounds generated during the cleaning process that can damage the lining of lung cells, sparking inflammation and making it easier for infections to take hold.


Image: Vitro Eg

Parents are constantly bombarded with advertising that urges them to keep their house clean, which in principle sounds alright but not when it’s enforced with the erroneous belief that homes should be devoid of microbes. First of all, no matter how hard you scrub there will still be germs lying around. Secondly, keep the house to clean is ironically making children more prone to allergies and infections, a growing body of evidence shows. A new published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, now suggests that your choice of cleaning products might affect how children build tolerance to infections.

The team measured the exposure to bleach in the home among more than 9000 children between the ages of 6 and 12 attending 19 schools in Utrecht, The Netherlands; 17 schools in Eastern and Central Finland; and 18 schools in Barcelona, Spain. The parents were asked to fill a questionnaire where they’d specify how often their children had flu; tonsillitis; sinusitis; bronchitis; otitis; and pneumonia infections during the past 12 months. After factoring for things such as passive smoking at home, parental education, the presence of household mould, and use of bleach to clean school premise, the researchers found that children who were lived in homes frequently cleaned with bleach were at a higher risk of developing infections.

Specifically, the risk was 18% higher among children whose parents regularly used cleaning bleach.

The authors caution, however, that this is an observational study and they’ve yet to uncover a cause-effect relationship. Moreover, they had little to no information regarding other cleaning products used in the homes. More investigation is warranted, however, since excessive bleach exposure might be a genuine public health concern.