FDA and anti-bacterial soaps

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David Hill

The Food and Drug Administration is seeking tougher rules on antibacterial soaps amid growing evidence that the soaps do not help prevent the spread of germs and may even pose health risks. 

Dr. David Hill, professor of medical sciences and director of the global public health program in the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, is available to comment.

Hill said, "Many products sold over the counter and used extensively by consumers are not regulated by the FDA. Therefore, the manufacturers of these products can make claims that may not be substantiated if the products were put through stringent testing. This appears to be the case with anti-bacterial soaps. They are sold under the premise that they are better than standard soaps.  However, while their active ingredients may be able to kill bacteria and viruses, it has not been shown that this effect translates into preventing infections in those who use them. Thus, they may not be any better than routine hand-washing in
preventing the common cold or flu, or other infections.

"Not only this, but it is possible that the major ingredients could contribute to increasing bacterial resistance. This would make it more difficult to treat a bacterial infection. And, there is concern about other effects if the ingredients are absorbed through the skin. Thus, the FDA is asking manufacturers to prove that these special, anti-baterial soaps are overall better (and safer) that routine hand-washing in preventing infections. If they cannot prove this, the products will need to be relabeled or reformulated.

"The message for the consumer is that simple hand washing with soap and water still remains one of the most effective ways to decrease the risk of spreading infections after preparing food, using the toilet, or after coughing or blowing your nose."

To speak to Hill, please call John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations at Quinnipiac, at 203-206-4449 (cell). 

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