[QODLink]
Americas

Do antibacterial soaps hide dirty secrets?

Officials have been getting in a lather about health risks of chemical ingredients in more than 2,000 products.

Last updated: 17 Dec 2013 03:03
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Makers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes are being urged to come clean and demonstrate that their products are both safe and more effective than soap and water.

The products have been at the centre of a four-decade investigation by US regulators, who said on Monday that they may do more harm than good.

"Although consumers generally view these products as effective tools to help prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water," the US Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

Long-term exposure to antibacterial chemicals, such as triclosan in liquid soaps and triclocarban in bar soaps, could have hormonal affects and allow bacteria to mutate into harder-to-control strains, according to research cited by the FDA.

More than 2,000 soap products in the United States contain antimicrobial chemicals, and 93 percent of those in liquid form contain triclosan, the FDA said.

Cleaning up the industry

Triclosan may be associated with the development of allergies in children, said Dr Leonardo Trasande, associate professor of paediatrics at New York University.

Dr Leonardo Trasande says chemicals found in antibacterial products may disrupt thyroid hormones.

"The World Health Organisation in 2012 announced a report which documented great concern about the public health consequences of these chemicals," he told Al Jazeera.

"I think families can go ahead and take care to eliminate triclosan from their homes. Soap and water work perfectly well."

The proposed rule would not affect hand sanitisers, wipes or antimicrobial products used in healthcare settings, the FDA said.

Industry trade lobbyists washed their hands of the FDA's research findings.

"A review of two dozen relevant published studies analysing the effectiveness of antibacterial soaps showed that hand washing with these products produces statistically greater reductions in bacteria on the skin than when using non-antibacterial soap," said the American Cleaning Institute.

The proposed FDA rule comes five days after the FDA issued new voluntary guidelines to phase out the use of antibiotics as a growth enhancer in livestock, also in an effort to stem a surge in human resistance to antibiotics.

The livestock guidelines are "part of the [same] general equation of what are the benefits of using antimicrobials and how do they stack up against any risks", said Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the Office of New Drugs at the FDA.

The proposed rule will be available for public comment for 180 days. Concurrently, companies will be given one year to submit new data and information, followed by a 60-day rebuttal comment period.

469

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
Iran's government has shifted its take on 'brain drain' but is the change enough to reverse the flow?
Deadly attacks on anti-mining activists in the Philippines part of a global trend, according to new report.
Activists say 'Honor Diaries' documentary exploits gender-based violence to further an anti-Islamic agenda.
As Syria's civil war escalates along the Turkish border, many in Turkey are questioning the country's involvement.
join our mailing list