An­tibac­te­rial Soaps: More harm than good?

Health & Nutrition - - PRODUCT SAVVY -

An­timi­cro­bial (of­ten sim­ply called “an­tibac­te­rial”) soaps and body washes made head­lines last De­cem­ber when the US FDA is­sued a pro­posed rule that would re­quire man­u­fac­tur­ers to pro­vide data show­ing that their prod­ucts are safe for daily use and are su­pe­rior to plain soaps in re­duc­ing in­fec­tions and pre­vent­ing ill­ness. If they can’t, they will have to re­for­mu­late or re­la­bel their prod­ucts. The in­gre­di­ents in ques­tion in­clude tri­closan (in liq­uid soaps) and tri­clo­car­ban (in bar soaps), as well as ben­za­lko­nium chlo­ride and ben­zetho­nium chlo­ride (both of which are also found in non-al­co­hol hand san­i­tiz­ers, though this pro­posal does not ad­dress “leave-on” hand san­i­tiz­ers per se or the use of any of th­ese prod­ucts in hos­pi­tals). Be­sides the fact that there is no ev­i­dence that an­tibac­te­rial prod­ucts pro­vide clear ben­e­fit out­side health-care set­tings, there is con­cern that their in­gre­di­ents are con­tribut­ing to the devel­op­ment of bac­te­ria that are re­sis­tant to an­tibi­otics. In ad­di­tion, the US FDA is look­ing into data from an­i­mal stud­ies that show that tri­closan acts as a hor­mone dis­rupter, caus­ing changes in es­tro­gen, testos­terone, and thy­roid hor­mones, which could af­fect pu­berty, fer­til­ity, and brain func­tion. The En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing tri­closan (since it is used as a pes­ti­cide as well) and will work with the US FDA to get a bet­ter idea of typ­i­cal ex­po­sure lev­els and health ef­fects in peo­ple, since ex­po­sure may be higher than pre­vi­ously thought. In one study, tri­closan was de­tected in the urine of nearly 75 per cent of 2,500 peo­ple tested. Soaps or body washes la­beled “an­tibac­te­rial” or “an­timi­cro­bial” aren’t rec­om­mended or­di­nary house­hold use. Check the in­gre­di­ents in “de­odor­ant” or “an­ti­sep­tic” soaps as well for tri­closan.

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