Thursday, 30 Sep 1999

Rhinebeck, N.Y.

My husband just asked me what I was going to write about today, after yesterday’s entry. “Well, maybe you should write about the end of the world,” he said, “but then what would you write about on Friday, the fifth entry?” I laughed and said, “Well, there is always the encephalitis crisis in New York.” Ha, ha, indeed. I just read that ticks may harbor encephalitis.

Okay, back to everyday life. One activity I did today was tend to our cutting board. It is built into the counter and made of corian, a very hard plastic. We do all sorts of kitchen projects on that cutting board (although there is never meat on it — we only put meat on plates that are then washed in the dishwasher) and it was in need of a big cleaning.

Such a simple, mundane chore, and yet amazingly, even with cleaning the cutting board, there is an environmental catch, a broader environmental issue that needs to be addressed. The news wires seem flooded in the last few days with articles on drug resistance, which is caused by our overuse of antibiotics and the fact that people eat animals that are fed antibiotics. Few people know that disinfectants — products many use on their cutting boards — may also cause drug resistance, according to research done at Tufts University.

People use disinfectants for a lot more than just their cutting boards. Suspect ingredients are found in “germ-killing” sponges, dishwashing liquids, hand soaps, and more. Did you ever expect your sponge to contain pesticides (all disinfectants must be registered with the EPA) and contribute to drug-resistant bacteria?

Using herbs as antiseptic agents is an old art, and doesn’t appear to cause drug resistance in bacteria. All the terpene essential oils are disinfectants; they include clove, cinnamon, rosemary, and lavender. Many are so antibacterial that they are used in natural cosmetics as preservatives. For my cutting board, I make a lovely smelling lavender spray by combining about 20 drops of a pure essential oil of lavender with a cup of water in a spray bottle. I spray it on the cutting board and just leave it overnight without rinsing.

Note that my “Lightly Lavender” antiseptic spray isn’t an official disinfectant. There is only one disinfectant registered by the EPA that I know of that is made of essential oils; it is called Power Herbal Disinfectant (available in health food stores and the internet).