Home Hygiene & Health
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April 4th: Insights into the controversy over the effectiveness of antimicrobial soap

In a short review Kim, and Rhee discuss the current controversy over antibacterial soaps. They discuss possible reasons why some studies show significant difference between plain soap and antibacterial soap whilst others do not. In particular they discuss how differences in experimental design may be a significant factor.

Secondly they comment on the FDA final rule on effectiveness and safety of antibacterial soap, which will come into effect from September 2017. FDA conclude that, based on the lack of evidence for the effectiveness of antibacterial soap, that the risk posed by the use of antibacterial soap (the negative effects of antiseptic active ingredients on human health and the environment, such as antibiotic resistance, acute/chronic toxicity, endocrine disruption, allergies, and bioaccumulation) outweighs its benefit. The ruliong means that consumer antiseptic products containing one or more of 19 ingredients, including triclocarban, and triclosan, can no longer be marketed.

In general, based on their results Kim and Ree express agreement with the FDA decision, concluding that “consumers should be protected from advertisements exaggerating the positive effects of antimicrobial soap, especially as consumers are usually prepared to spend more money purchasing antimicrobial soap with the expectation that it will be more effective in preventing infectious disease than plain soap. Governments have the responsibility to educate the population continuously on the beneficial and adverse effects of antimicrobial soap”.

Finally they discuss the need for more research into the efficacy of antibacterial soaps containing a variety of antiseptic active ingredients in order to develop safer and more effective ingredients.   The say “Continuing research into antimicrobial soap will contribute toward the establishment of appropriate regulations and standards for use in antibacterial soap in personal care settings, and it is expected that this will further improve personal health".

The paper can be found at: http://www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article/S0195-6701(17)30144-5/abstract. or Journal of Hospital Infection (2017), doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2017.03.013.