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Antimicrobial products are often promoted for their clean and healthy qualities; however, they can actually be unhealthy because misuse of antimicrobials can lead to resistance. (Like how it’s not recommended to stay on antibiotics for too long.)


So what are antimicrobials?

Perkins+Will defines antimicrobials as substances toxic to specific organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, or protozoa. These organisms fit the umbrella definition of “microbe.” And since not every microbe is harmful to human health, they are not always a problem.1 We don’t need our surfaces to be actively fighting against them.

Antimicrobials to Avoid

  • Triclosan (now banned)
  • Silver Nanoparticles: Silver treats and prevents infections. However, when substances are broken down to such a small scale, they begin behaving in unique and little-understood ways. Because nanoparticles can cross cell boundaries, they can potentially disrupt the body’s normal processes.1

Why are they unhealthy?

Antimicrobial materials may be marketed as “healthy,” but these claims are unfounded:

  • There is no evidence that antimicrobials in building materials pose any health benefits.4
  • Using antimicrobials in hospitals poses risks to public health when people assume a surface is “naturally clean”. 4
  • Normal cleaning agents like soap and water are proven to work fine at keeping conditions sanitary— their continued use should come before the use of antimicrobial materials because of their potential to be harmful to human and environmental health.4
  • Check out this paper to learn more about antimicrobials.

So, why are they still used?

The FDA banned the marketing of products like soaps and hand sanitizers containing triclosan as an antimicrobial sanitizer in 2023.3 However, because antimicrobials used in building materials are considered “pesticides,” loopholes allow their continued use by the building sector.2

Precautionary Principle
The United Nations precautionary principle states that in cases where the health impacts of a chemical are not fully understood, and there is room for concern, its use should be avoided.6




  1. Avoid anything labeled “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial”
  2. When approached by a manufacturer advertising microbials – ask for a Health Product Declaration (HPD) which lists chemical ingredients.  Weigh the ingredient with the hazard listed here – and ask yourself if it’s worth it.
  3. Share this data and links below with clients who may be pushing for antimicrobials.