Antibacterial Soap Chemicals



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  "Federal regulators are deciding in 2013 whether triclosan, the germ-killing ingredient found in liquid antibacterial soaps and body washes, is harmful.  The concern is that triclosan can increase the risk of infertility, early puberty in girls, and alter levels of thyroid hormones and reproductive hormones like testosterone and estrogen.  Researchers have found that triclosan also interferes with the transfer of estrogen to growing fetuses in pregnant animals, affecting the development of organs like the lungs and liver.  

Some experts say that routine use of antibacterial chemicals like triclosan is contributing to a surge in drug-resistant germs, or superbugs, that are immune to antibiotics.  

The FDA was asked to evaluate triclosan’s use four decades ago, when Richard Nixon was still president.  In the 1970’s, triclosan was used in hospitals as a scrub for surgeons preparing to perform an operation.  It was also used to coat the surfaces of catheters, stitches and other surgical instruments.  In the 1990’s, triclosan began making its way into hundreds of antibacterial consumer goods, ranging from soap to socks to lunchboxes.  In 2010, the European Union banned the chemical from products that come into contact with food.  

Recent research has shown that soaps with triclosan are no more effective at preventing illness or reducing bacteria on the hands than plain soap.  Longer hand-washing improves results far more than adding anti-bacterial ingredients.  The Centers for Disease Control recommends washing hands at least 20 seconds.  The CDC also recommends using hand sanitizer—most of which use alcohol or ethanol to kill germs, not chemicals like triclosan—if soap and water are not available.

Some leading medical societies, hospitals and companies have abandoned the chemical.  In 2010, Kaiser Permanente pulled triclosan from its 37 hospitals across the country, switching to traditional soaps and alcohol-based hand sanitizers.  

Many chemicals used in everyday household products have never been formally approved by U.S. health regulators, because many germ-killing chemicals were developed decades ago, before there were laws requiring scientific review of cleaning ingredients."     “FDA investigating safety of antibacterial soap chemical,” by Matthew Perrone, Associated Press, May 3, 2013  

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