Is the end of “anti-bacterial” soaps nigh?

In September the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in the USA, banned the use of antibacterial soaps as it said that the manufacturers did not prove that they were safe or more effective than normal products.

Dr Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s centre for evaluation and research said in a statement: “Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water. In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long term.”

The federal rule applies to products which has one or more of 19 chemical compounds, including triclocarbon (used in soap bars) and triclosan (used in liquid soaps). The latter is effective at killing bacteria, but only if used for an extended period – much longer than the average person spends washing their hands. The FDA proposed the rule in 2013 as research suggested they may have an effect on human hormones or change natural resistance to bacteria and recent studies have linked triclosan to disruptions in human and animal health. A study by the university of Chicago found that triclosan altered the microbiome in the human gut and the researchers suggested that it could damage developing foetuses. Another study found that overuse could contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Although the ban does not affect alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wipes, the FDA is investigating these products. As a matter of interest: for traditional hand sanitizers to be effective they should have at least 60% alcohol.

Time for a natural alternative – use Aquaint.

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