by Mary E. Ruppert, RN, BSN, CIC
Infection Prevention Coordinator, Speare Memorial Hospital
One infection is one too many.
When you buy soaps and body washes for use at home, do you reach for products labeled “antibacterial” hoping they’ll keep your family safer? Do you think those products will lower your risk of getting sick, spreading germs or being infected?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there isn’t enough science to show that antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. In addition, some of the ingredients in these products may have negative long-term effects on both people and our environment.
The recent (FDA) ruling on the elimination of antibacterial products applies to antibacterial products – liquid, gel, foam and bar soaps and body washes. The ruling is banning the marketing of consumer products with antibacterial ingredients, primarily and triclocarban. Some manufacturers had already started removing these ingredients before the FDA ruling.
Triclosan and/or triclocarban are also used in many other consumer products: toothpastes and cosmetics (which are regulated by the FDA) and clothing, kitchenware, furniture and even toys (which are not regulated by the FDA). In animal studies triclosan has altered the way that some hormones work, we don’t know if there are similar effects on humans. Studies also indicate that the antibacterial ingredients may contribute to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.
What does this mean to you and your family?
Washing your hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease and infection. Washing your hands is simple, and it works.
Plain soap works to clean your hands and the action of washing your hands removes germs.
Read the labels of products you have at home. If your soaps contain antibacterial ingredients replace these with soaps that do not have this claim or these ingredients.
Click Here for more information about this consumer update from the FDA.
What does this mean for healthcare workers?
The antibacterial additives in soaps can also increase hand irritation. Speare Memorial Hospital has been using a plain hand soap (no antibacterial ingredients) in the soap dispensers in staff and public bathrooms and at sink locations since I started working here as the Infection Preventionist in December 2011.
This FDA rule is for soaps sold to consumers only and does not apply to hand sanitizers or hand wipes, which generally do not contain triclosan or triclocarban.
What about hand sanitizers and wipes?
The FDA is not recommending any changes to the products that are currently on the market for either consumers or healthcare use. The FDA is reviewing antiseptic hand sanitizers and wipes for both consumer and healthcare use.
Click Here for more information on sanitizers and wipes is available at this link (opens as a pdf document)
Click Here for more information on healthcare antiseptics (hand washes and rubs, surgical hand scrubs and rubs and patient preoperative skin preparations and pre-injection preparations).