Skip to comments.Experts refute anti-bacterial soap claims
Posted on 10/21/2005 9:07:54 PM PDT by neverdem
WASHINGTON -- Antibacterial soaps and washes aren't any better than plain, old soap and water for fighting illness in the household, says a panel of federal health advisers.
They warned manufacturers they will have to prove their products' benefits or they may be restricted from marketing them.
Dr. Alastair Wood, chairman of the panel which met Thursday to advise the Food and Drug Administration, said he saw no reason to purchase antibacterial products, given they generally cost more than soap.
The advisers also worried the potential risks of the products, particularly the common hand soaps and body washes that use synthetic chemicals, create an environmental hazard and could contribute to the growth of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
"I think we're seeing a lot of sentiment against (antibacterials) being marketed to the consumer" unless they can show some added benefit over regular soap and water, said Dr. Mary E. Tinetti, a member of the panel.
Industry representatives contend their products are safe and more effective than conventional soaps, because they kill germs instead of just washing them off. They said consumers should have a right to choose their products in a free market.
Their products have grown significantly in popularity in the last decade, as consumers decided killing germs was better than simply washing them down the drain.
But the FDA said controlled studies found no significant difference in infections in households using antibacterial products and those with regular soap and water.
On Thursday, the agency's Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Panel, composed of independent experts, recommended no specific regulatory action against the manufacturers, but called on FDA to study the products' risks versus their benefits.
The agency has the authority to order warning labels on the products or place restrictions on how they are marketed to the public. Susan Johnson, associate director of nonprescription products for the FDA, said the agency would pay close attention to the panel's concerns.
FDA officials and panelists raised concerns about whether the antibacterials contribute to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, and said the agency has not found any medical studies that definitively linked specific antibacterial products to reduced infection rates.
Dr. Stuart B. Levy, president of the Alliance for Prudent Use of Antibiotics, said laboratory studies have suggested the soaps sometimes leave behind bacteria that have a better ability to flush threatening substances - from antibacterial soap chemicals to antibiotics - from their system.
"What we're seeing is evolution in action," he said of the process.
He advocated restricting antibacterial products from consumer use, leaving them solely for hospitals and homes with very sick people.
"Bacteria are not going to be destroyed," he said. "They've seen dinosaurs come and go. They will be happy to see us come and go. Any attempt to sterilize our home is fraught with failure."
Levy said overuse of antibiotics is the main cause of bacteria developing resistance to them. He acknowledged that a yearlong study showed that homes using antibacterial soaps did not show an increase in resistant bacteria in significant numbers, but he argued the soaps will still contribute to resistance over a longer period.
Industry representatives said they would provide more information to FDA about their products safety and effectiveness.
"The importance of controlling bacteria in the home is no different than the professional setting," said Elizabeth Anderson, associate general counsel for the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. "We feel strongly that consumers must continue to have the choice to use these products."
Panelists also distinguished alcohol-based hand cleansers from antibacterial soaps and washes. The cleansers are particularly useful in situations in which soap and water are not available.
Anti-bacterial handsoaps really don't kill that much bacteria. In my first year of medical school, I grew a culture of the bacteria growing on my fingers - after I washed very thoroughly with an anti-bacteral soap that's commonly used in hospitals. All sorts of bacteria were still on my hands, and grew colonies on the plate.
Certain of the alcohol-based sanitizing gels and foams are actually a little more effective. But nothing is going to get your hands entirely free of bacteria.
Re: body odor, I only know what works for me.
As for studies on the hands, most people don't use anti-bacterial soaps properly: wet hands, apply soap, smear/scrub/rub thoroughly (above the wrist). Apply a bit of water, repeat. Rinse.
"They want to restrict the use to hospitals. If they don't work and breed super bugs, why do they use them in hospitals????"
It's the Hospital LOBBY.
They want you to get sick and you're admitted to their facility to get cured by.....washing your hands.
It's a conspiracy I tell ya. (sarcasm)
Just plain old Laundry Soap, and it lasts forever. Some like Fels Naptha, but it's hard to find here.
No, they say that antibacterials aren't any better than washing.
Dr. Dean Edell said that years (5 or 6) ago on one of his shows.
Yepper!!! Best stuff made next to Fels Naptha. There was also a coal tar soap that was really good but have not been able to find it.
I used Octagon years ago, when I did mechanical work and needed a good, basic strong soap that was cheap, since I used a ton of it.
Last year, Mrs. B got some poison Ivy, ahem! on her lower regions ( don't ask! ) and that was the only thing that did a halfway decent job of getting the oils off of her.
It's getting hard to find around here- the area is getting gentrified by folks from the big cities, and only one Winn-Dixie still carries it.
re: the octagon or fels naptha -
I can see it for the poison ivy, but do you use it for every day soap? Or just tough duty soap? I keep a bar in the laundry room for tough stains, but that's about it...
and I can find it in the laundry section in almost every supermarket....
Actually, I use it in the kitchen as everyday soap- the bar is huge, and lasts a long time. I have used it to get grease out of my hair, as shampoo, as well.
I used Octagon years ago, when I did mechanical work"
Lava is my soap of choice for cleaning oil and grit from my hands. It contains pumice, and really does a great job of grinding away oily dirt and grime.
We keep Lava around here, too- plus Go-Jo.
Let your kids play in the dirt, just make 'em wash up afterwards. It is hard to build a immune system watching TV or playing video games.
You noticed that, too, eh?
It's hard to figure what exactly is going on with this, but it looks like either someone wants money from the triclosan manufacturers or else the pharmaceutical/medical crew wants it to be one of those things where you have to pay a doctor for the right to use it.
I have used Dial antibacterial liquid for 12 or 15 years now. I've used off-brands, and they seem generally less effective.
Dittos also to an earlier post re: those little body zits, and though it doesn't cure facial acne, it certainly seems to help prevent little whiteheads from becoming big red gnarly pus-sacs as often.
We need a website that gives detailed instructions for manufacturing antibiotics in your kitchen, while it's still legal to post such things.
I don't use it for bathing but keep it handy in the kitchen and mud room. It is great because it leaves no residue. I have used it for conditioner buildup. Many of the old soaps are making a come back. Not that many years ago we made a batch of lye soap from a pig we butchered, it came out well an lasted a long time. Since we no longer raise out own meat and most of the butcher shops have closed, it is hard to find the pure white fat.
Ordinary soap is a powerful anti-bacterial. It's a strong surfactant and rips bacterial cell wall apart. There's probably no reason to add anything else. No antibiotics for sure and I doubt that quaternary ammonium salts or other inorganics probably don't increase their killing ability.
In the shower?
Lava is good for teens' faces.
Doctors think they are the ansswer to every problem and that they should have all healing at their fingers - pun intended. Use the Best Soap you can find...often.
This is an example of the MSM needing a negative story instead of a positive one showing why people live longer and healthier in America.
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