No health benefits, and risky to boot
UPdate Fall 2008
Antibacterial soaps have no health benefits over plain soaps, according to
a new study by University of Michigan public health professor Allison Aiello,
Ph.D. Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky is the first comprehensive
study to test whether antibacterial soaps sold for home use are more effective
than plain soaps in removing bacteria and preventing infectious disease.
The short answer is – NO and NO.
Dr. Aiello and her team found that washing hands with a consumer antibacterial
soap was no more effective in preventing infectious illness than plain soap.
They also found that antibacterial soaps at formulations sold to the public
do not remove any more bacteria from the hands than plain soaps.
The soaps containing triclosan used in the community setting are no more effective
than plain soap at preventing infectious illness symptoms, as well as reducing
bacteria on the hands,” Aiello’s report states.
It’s bad enough that consumer anti-bacterial soaps don’t do what
they claim to protect health. These soaps also have health risks. Aiello reports
that because of the way triclosan, the main active ingredient in many antibacterial
soaps, reacts in the cells, it may cause some bacteria to become resistant
to commonly used drugs such as amoxicillin.
The rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria is responsible for an increasing
number of hospitalizations, deaths, and school closures. Public health advocates
are concerned over the overuse of antimicrobial products and antibiotics.
Triclosan is found in hundreds of common everyday products, including nearly
half of all commercial soaps, especially liquid soaps. Triclosan is also an
ingredient in deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics and plastics. Microban
and Irgasan are other names for triclosan.
The study, “Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky?” appears
in the August 2007 edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration led a panel of experts and industry
representatives to weigh and analyze different germ-killing methods. The panel
found "no firm scientific evidence that the flood of antimicrobial products
we observe has any discernible benefit over the use of regular soap and water."
Anti-bacterial soaps used in hospitals and other clinical settings contain
higher concentrations of triclosan that those in consumer products, and may
be more effective at reducing illness and bacteria in the hospital setting,
according to the researchers.
Thanks to Beyond Pesticides
UPdate, Fall 2008, Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia