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Mummy Myths! Should I only use non-bio detergents on baby clothes? NO! This popular misconception was tackled by researchers in 2008, but how many mums are aware of the facts...? BIO VERSUS NON-BIO: The difference between bio (biological) and non-bio detergents is that bio detergents contain enzymes that are extremely effective at cleaning stains. Enzymes are biological proteins which break down other proteins, starches, and fats that are common in everyday stains. 4 To advertise contact us on 01706 353 729 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The enzymes used in detergents are able work at lower temperatures, so bio detergents perform better at lower temperatures (30 to 50°C) than non-bio detergents. If you prefer to use the quick wash cycle on your machine or set it to lower temperatures, then bio detergents will be a better choice for you. Non-bio detergents don’t contain enzymes, so you will need to wash your clothes at higher temperatures. This obviously consumes more energy and is therefore more expensive. THE MYTH: It is generally accepted in this country that the biological agents in detergent that combat dirt and stains can irritate skin and aggravate eczema. We know that baby skin is sensitive, and we want to do all we can to avoid their discomfort, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that using bio detergent on baby clothes is a big no no. As parents, we get bombarded by well-meaning advice all the time, on everything from wiping to weaning, but where did this belief about bio detergents come from? Is it backed up by facts? The wariness of enzymes in detergents is thought to have started after workers manufacturing detergent enzymes suffered skin reactions, so are required to work with strict exposure control measures. It could have also come about from a time before modern washing machines, when clothes harboured much more residues from powders which caused irritation. The idea is also reinforced when you walk down a supermarket aisle and see this obvious split between the two types, bio and non-bio, and the non-bio is marketed as ‘without enzymes for delicate skin’. THE REALITY: In 2008 scientists reviewed the scientific literature, considering the skin reactions following both normal and extreme exposures to the biological agents in detergents. They discovered that the enzyme raw materials do not pose a risk of irritant or allergic skin reaction. The researchers' findings appear in the British Journal of Dermatology in a paper called ‘Enzymes, detergents and skin: facts and fantasies’. The lead author of the paper, Dr David Basketter, concludes that "Investigations of numerous individuals with skin complaints attributed to laundry products demonstrate convincingly that enzymes were not responsible." He then goes on to relegate this long held belief to the realms of mythology "Indeed, enzyme-containing laundry products have an extensive history of safe use. Thus, the supposed adverse effects of enzymes on skin seem to be a consequence of mythology." Curiously, dividing our detergents into ‘bio’ and ‘non-bio’ seems to be a British oddity. No other country separates their detergents like this and in many countries, you can’t even get hold of ‘nonbio’. It therefore seems that our irrational belief about enzymes have turned into lucrative products for consumer goods companies. Even our NHS succumbed to this belief it until it was challenged. For decades, the NHS recommended washing baby clothes with non-bio detergent until a group of volunteer mums from a project for reusable nappies pressured the NHS to explain their stance. Following an investigation, they realised that the advice was based on no evidence at all and seems to have been left over from a pamphlet for expectant mothers from the previous Department of Health. What the NHS website now says is that “There's no evidence that using washing powders with enzymes (bio powders) or fabric conditioners will irritate your baby's skin.” Of course, washing powders and liquids can cause skin problems in some people, but the causes of the problem are likely to be due to the perfumes they contain, which are found in both bio and non-bio detergents. It seems to me that given bio washing powders are far superior at getting stains out than non-bio they are the preferred option when you’re washing poo and sick out of clothes on a daily basis, as in my family at least...! Nicole Santos is a doctor of epidemiology and a mum of one. www.adwiselocal.co.uk \ www.facebook.com/adwiselocal \ twitter: @adwiselocal \ Instagram: @adwiselocal 5