Antibacterial Soap Poses Safety Concerns

FDA Setting Rules for Antibacterial Soap Testing

antibacterial soapAntibacterial soap poses safety concerns, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The soap contains chemicals that are not proven to effectively kill germs and prevent the spread of infection. In fact, any benefits of using antibacterial soap have not been proven.

The FDA laid out their rule Monday, ordering antibacterial soap makers to start conducting studies on the effectiveness of this soap and antibacterial body wash. Due to the rise of the superbug, antibacterial soap manufacturers will need to prove that their soap is more effective at fighting sickness and infections than plain soap and water. If this cannot be proved, antibacterial soap manufacturers will have to remove the “antibacterial” label.

Scientific studies have shown the two chemicals in antibacterial soap–triclosan (in liquid soap) and triclocarban (in bar soap)–can negatively affect thyroid and hormone functions, and may actually be contributing to a bacterial resistance to antibiotics, thus causing the superbug. The longer antibacterial soap is used, the more likely it is to build up a strong resistance to antibiotics and adversely disrupt the body’s hormone functions.

Colleen Rogers, a microbiologist with the FDA, says, “New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits.”

The FDA’s rule will allow the American public 180 days to comment on this rule. The testing of the antibacterial soap does not include hand sanitizers, hand wipes or antibacterial soaps used in hospitals or other medical facilities. The antibacterial soap makers have 12 months to provide evidence from their scientific studies that this soap is superior to plain soap and water.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says there is no proof that antibacterial soap is better than plain soap and water: “To date, studies have shown that there is no added health benefit for consumers (this does not include professionals in the healthcare setting) using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap.”

Washing hands

Regular hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of sickness and infection. It might be surprising to know that water temperature during hand washing does not make a significant difference in cleaning hands as long as the running water is clean.

To clean hands effectively, first wet your hands, turn off the faucet and start scrubbing with soap. Turning the tap off will save water. Scrub with soap for about 20 seconds, making sure the entire surfaces of hands are covered with soap. Turn the tap on and rinse hands thoroughly under running water then air dry or dry them with a clean towel.

Using soap and water is more effective than just water because the ingredients in soap lift microbes (tiny organisms that may cause disease) from hands and eliminate germs. People are more likely to scrub more when they use soap with water.

While antibacterial soap is investigated for posing safety concerns, and if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer is fairly effective, as long as it contains at least 60 percent alcohol. However, they are not as effective as soap and water when hands are very dirty and grimy. While they remove some microbes from the hands, they don’t remove all germs. Use a hand sanitizer for times when soap and water are not available and always use soap and water otherwise.

By Juana Poareo

Business Standard
LA Times
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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