cold and flu
hand washing
December 18, 2013

The Clean Hands Club


Scott: It is that time of the year again – cold and flu season. And one of the things you hear more frequently is to wash your hands. But is antibacterial soap really any better than regular soap? Well, Maggie Rulli has some answers.

Maggie: Antibacterial soaps can be found everywhere, and they might seem like an obvious choice when it comes to fighting germs. But now the government says not so fast. After more than forty years of study, the Food and Drug Administration says it has found no evidence that common antibacterial soaps prevent the spread of germs any better than regular soap and water. And the FDA says the products promise results they just can’t deliver.

Dr. Sandra Kweder: In fact, most of the illnesses in today’s households and public places are viral illnesses, not bacterial illnesses, that these products would have no effect on at all.

Maggie: Antibacterial soaps fight bacteria but not viruses like colds and flus.

The FDA’s preliminary ruling also backs outside researchers who have long argued that antibacterial products are harming you more than the germs they are supposed to be fighting. The FDA is especially concerned with certain chemical ingredients found in antibacterial products. The biggies? Triclosan and triclocarban.

The FDA sites published reports that show long-term exposure to chemicals in antibacterial products could alter hormone levels in animals, conditions that in humans could lead to early onset puberty and infertility. Other research suggests these chemicals cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics, leading to so-called superbugs. And recent data also shows that exposure to these active ingredients when using antibacterial products is much higher than previously thought. About 2,000 products contain these chemicals.

In light of these concerns, the companies making these products will now be required to provide the FDA with additional data on their products’ safety and effectiveness. That includes the results of clinical studies.

The American Cleaning Institute, made up of 130 companies who make cleaning supplies, says they have been showing the FDA research for years.

Brian Sansoni: We believe the data shows that these products are safe and effective, and we certainly hope the FDA realizes that.

Maggie: Antibacterial soaps are about a $450 million industry in the U.S., making the FDA’s announcement a big deal for the environment, public health and the economy.

Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.

Scott: The proposed rule does not apply to alcohol-based hand sanitizers.


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