Back when I was an infectious disease fellow, I completed a national survey (along with Anthony Harris) of the availability of tricolsan and triclocarban containing antibacterial soaps. At the time, the industry wouldn't release the use or sales data we needed to estimate a population risk from these chemicals. We found that 76% of liquid soaps and 29% of bar soaps sold to consumers contained these agents. Fifteen years ago we concluded: “with limited documented benefits and experimental laboratory evidence suggesting possible adverse effects on the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, consumer antibacterial use of this magnitude should be questioned.”
Well, patience is a virtue. Today, the FDA issued a rule banning triclosan, triclocarban and 17 other agents in hand soaps and body washes. The ban does not apply to antibacterial soaps used in health care settings. In a press release, the FDA stated:
“there isn't enough science to show that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. To date, the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap haven't been proven. In addition, the wide use of these products over a long time has raised the question of potential negative effects on your health.”
It's nice to see positive change happen in your lifetime. It's also nice not to have to read a soap's ingredients before washing our hands.
Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands). This post originally appeared at the blog Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention.