Daily News Archive
From October 21, 2005
Use of Antibacterial Products
"There is a lack
of evidence that antiseptic soaps provide a benefit beyond plain soap
in (the) community setting," said University of Michigan epidemiologist
The agency is asking its advisers to recommend which consumers should use such products. It is also seeking advice on how to decide whether the soaps are effective and what risks it should consider in making its final rule. The FDA, which usually follows its experts' advice, could take a variety of actions, from changing product labels to restricting marketing claims.
the risks to consumers," said FDA microbiologist Colleen Rogers.
At issue are antibacterial products that include chemicals such as triclosan, which targets a certain enzyme that bacteria need to live and may linger in the environment. Numerous studies have found that triclosan promotes the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Triclosan has also been linked to the formation of dioxin, a highly carcinogenic substance. Triclosan is found in hundreds of common everyday products, including nearly half of all commercial soaps. In addition to soaps, triclosan is found in deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics and plastics. Triclosan is used so commonly that is has made its way into the human body –it has been found in the umbilical cord blood of infants and in breast milk of mothers.
The agency also raised concerns about the environmental impact of some antibacterial cleansers, including triclosan, which may hurt some algae and fish and break down into a harmful contaminant. Another potential fear -- which the FDA said was "controversial" -- was that using too many antibacterial products may prevent people from being exposed to routine bacteria, weakening the development of their immune systems and leading to asthma and allergies. This idea is popularly known as the hygiene hypothesis.
The panel is expected to vote at the end of the meeting on whether they believe that antibacterial cleansers are effective.
TAKE ACTION: When used in hospitals and other health care settings, or for persons with weakened immune systems, triclosan represents an important health care and sanitary tool. Outside of these settings, it is unnecessary, and the constant exposure to triclosan becomes a health and environmental hazard. The best solution to preventing infections is good old soap and water. Make sure you read all labels when buying soaps and other toiletry products to ensure that triclosan is not included. Also be on the lookout for Microban and Irgasan, which are other names for triclosan. Consult our triclosan factsheet for a list of products containing triclosan (some, like Teva sandals and kitchen knives, may surprise you) and for more detailed information on alternatives to triclosan.