Picture that you are at q pharmacy, picking up a few household items, including some hand soap. Almost by habit, you pick out a soap that boasts its germ-fighting anti- bacterial properties. You head over to the cash and grab another container of hand sanitizer that you’ll later toss in your purse.
But, do you really need all this? Is there any merit to paying more for antibacterial products versus regular soap?
Well, the Food and Drug Administration is asking these very same questions as well. In fact, some critics have even mentioned that these antibacterial products could actually carry a risk for the public.
Now, these concerns are not being raised for individuals who are actually in the health care or food industries — where the advantages of using antibacterial products clearly outweigh any risks — but for the general population these products might not be quite so advantageous.
Many of us are buying these antibacterial products off the shelves, as the marketing tactics used by manufacturers continue to play on our need to be germ-free. But, the FDA is growing concerned that perhaps we are overusing these products. As a result, the FDA has raised its concern to a committee that will evaluate whether or not the FDA should limit the use of these antibacterial products.
“(It) often is not clear what contribution consumer antiseptics make relative to washing with plain soap and water,” stated a FDA document, which was made public recently on October 17.
There have been claims in the past that these antibacterial soaps can actually create bacteria that cannot be combated with antibiotics. Even as far back as 2000, the American Medical Association was telling the FDA that it needed to regulate these antibacterial consumer products.
These recent concerns have been heightened by findings that show certain bacteria do not respond to antibiotics. Also, the increasing concern about the bird flu is causing more and more apprehension about infectious diseases, which, earlier this year, even led to the ban of a drug used in poultry. It turned out that this particular antibiotic could have led to pathogens, which may not have been combative by drugs when treating humans.
According to the documents released on October 17, there have been no studies that have connected an increased use of antibacterial products to a lower risk of infection rates. In fact, there appears to be no difference between regular soaps and the antibacterial ones.
Unfortunately, as of right now, the data surrounding antibacterial products and resistant bacterium are not conclusive. But, the concern at the moment is related to one particular ingredient in the products – “triclosan.”
There has been discussion that continuous use of the antibacterial products could prevent the public from being exposed to good bacteria, thereby weakening people’s immune systems.
To further the concern surrounding antibacterial products, it turns out that they might also have a detrimental effect on the environment and its ecosystems.
The makers of these products are quick argue these points, noting that there is no conclusive evidence showing that drug-resistant bacterium are created in household conditions, thus claiming that there is a benefit from these products.
We will keep you updated on this issue as more research and evidence comes in. Until then, continue to wash your hands often in order to avoid the spread of germs and bacteria, but limit the amount of antibacterial products you use in your home.