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January 2019

[UPDATE] The Future of Hygiene

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Workplace Hygiene, Health and Safety

It’s the beginning of a new year and - like many people I know - I’m wondering what 2019 will hold: for me personally, for the business in which I work, and the country in which I live.

From a hygiene perspective, 2018 was a year in which Cape Town faced down the very real possibility of a Day Zero (a scenario in which the taps ran dry) and hundreds of people died from the worst Listeria outbreak the world has ever experienced. Each of these events has, in their own way, generated a significant change in our industry and our country.

Capetonians have a newfound respect for the potable water that comes from our taps and are treating it more carefully than they have ever done in the past, employing a multitude of water saving devices and practices across all aspects of life; and food safety standards in the country are being scrutinised and improved with new regulatory bodies in place to try and ensure that we never have another Listeria outbreak of such magnitude. (You can read more about the changes that have been made in the food safety industry in this blog post).   

Want to help keep water usage to a minimum? Ensure your co-workers are doing their part by printing out these water saving posters and placing them in areas where people need to be reminded about water restrictions.

With such significant changes being made to the way in which we do things in the hygiene industry during 2018, it’s hard to predict what might be on the cards for 2019. Over 2018 we saw a trend towards using bacteria and enzyme-based cleaning products both in commercial and domestic cleaning products - as well as in hand soaps and beauty products - that I believe will continue to gain traction over the next year.

This is due to the fact that  - according to Natural Stacks -  stripping our skin of its natural bacteria causes our skin to go into an "offensive" and alarmed state, also known as chronic inflammation. This is believed to contribute to most modern diseases of inflamed skin. Natural Stacks solution to this problem is to cover your skin with Ammonia Oxidising Bacteria (AoB's) and thus effectively assisting your microbiome to repair and remain healthy.

I’m sure for some people, the idea of covering your skin in any kind of bacteria - friendly or otherwise - is completely repellant, however my interest was piqued and some Googling of  AoB’s led me to a 2014 New York Times article entitled “My No-Soap, No-Shampoo, Bacteria-Rich Hygiene Experiment” in which the author documents her experience as a test subject for Californian startup AOBiome.

Back in 2014 AOBiome started testing a living bacterial skin tonic, which looks, feels and tastes like water, but which contains billions of cultivated Nitrosomonas eutropha, an ammonia-oxidising bacteria (AOB) most commonly found in dirt and untreated water.  Their scientists hypothesised that AOB once lived happily on people, before we started washing it away with soap and shampoo, and acted as a built-in cleanser, deodorant, anti-inflammatory and immune booster by feeding on the ammonia in our sweat. 

Moving forward, on their “latest news” page the AOBiome website states that the Company has recently reported, “positive efficacy and safety findings from the Phase 2b clinical trial of the Company's Ammonia Oxidising Bacteria (AOB) product candidate for the treatment of mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris.”

Further reading revealed that big names in the cosmetics industry - such as L’Oreal - are doing their own research into the microbiome (for more on the link between hygiene and the human microbiome read our blog Is good hygiene making us sick?) and have patented several bacterial treatments for dry and sensitive skin. 

In an interview with Cecile Clavaud, research engineer for L’Oreal, a European Cosmetics forum reported that L’Oreal is also looking into microbiota imbalances in the scalp, which cause the all too common affliction of dandruff.  Clinique sells a foundation with Lactobacillus ferment, and its parent company, Estée Lauder, holds a patent for skin application of Lactobacillus plantarum. 

Like L’Oreal, the Initial business has always prioritised research and development, continually striving to improve our service offerings to customers. “Our R&D is ongoing, as we research new and innovative products - such as enzymatic cleaners - to ensure that we have the best waterwise and environmentally friendly solutions for our customers and colleagues,” says Clint Jackson, Operations Director.   

From January, Initial will be offering a bio-enzyme consumable product range, including foam soap, liquid soap, and hand sanitisers.  The enzymes used in these products are non-toxic, non-irritating, non-gaseous, non-flammable, non-pathogenic and non-hazardous, and completely biodegradable, and have industry certifications (including Global Green Tag certification) to reflect this. 

These bio-enzyme consumables contain enzymes from the Bacillus consortium, which are non-pathogenic to plants, animals and humans. They colonise the hands and create a protective layer that not only creates a healthy microflora on the hands but also prevents pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and moulds from multiplying and spreading.  This means that these soaps and sanitisers provide an immediate cleansing effect, combined with a long lasting and ongoing protective effect after application (unlike conventional soaps and sanitisers which are rendered useless as soon as you come into contact with another contaminated surface) which also means that you are able to wash your hands less often - thus saving water. This range of products is also completely biodegradable and environmentally friendly - no harmful chemical compounds are released into the atmosphere or into our water systems during production or usage.

Bio-enzyme products should, therefore, be seen as a rising star in as the future of hygiene, and especially in an increasingly water-scarce environment such as South Africa. Initial is pleased to be working with suppliers who endorse this view and are able to provide us with a consumable product range that supports both good hygiene and water reduction.

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Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie is the Category Manager at Rentokil Initial, and has worked in the hygiene and pest control industry for 12 years. Although after 12 years cockroaches still have the power to terrify her, she has learnt countless ways to defeat germs both in the workplace and at home. She is a passionate advocate for Global Handwash Day and the health benefits that can be derived from regular handwashing and hygiene practices. When not contributing to the Initial blog, Nathalie is writing press releases for sister businesses, Rentokil and Ambius. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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