There have been a lot of press releases and studies coming out in the last couple of years stating that antibacterial products really aren’t better for you than regular soaps, the latest being a story which hit the AP a couple of days ago.
Regular Soap vs. Antibacterial Cleansers
In an 11 to 1 vote, advisory panel members concluded that mass-marketed antiseptics have shown no evidence of preventing infections more effectively than hand washing with regular soap.
“There’s no evidence they’re a good value,” Alistair Wood, MD, chairman of the FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee, tells WebMD. “There doesn’t seem any good reason to buy them.”
The committee made a unanimous exception for evaporating alcohol-based hand cleansers, which it said could be of use in places without ready access to soap and water. Those places could include daycare settings with no nearby wash basin or use by travelers who spend time away from convenient, clean water sources.
Soap Industry Responds
Representatives of soap and detergent companies say their products live up to their labels, which claim that they significantly reduce the presence of germs on the hands.
“We believe that the benefit of reducing harmful germs on the skin is apparent,” says Brian T. Sansoni, vice president of communications for the Soap and Detergent Association, an industry group.
“We are concerned that consumers’ access to these products might be limited in some way,” he says.
Look at the soap companies falling over themselves trying to dispute the study’s findings. Hah!
I’ve never been one to fall for the whole antibacterial craze… It started with hand soaps, and once those took off, I began to notice that everything had an antibacterial flavor: bandages, lotions, dish soaps, body wash, toothpaste, hand wipes, toilet paper (!), facial tissues, you name it. (I even saw a brand of facial tissues which claims to be “antiviral.” Wow!) All these claims of killing germs to make you “safer” never really convinced me that those products were better for some reason. There is also a school of thought which says that your immune system needs practice to get stronger; if you don’t have germs around, you’re setting yourself up for some major sickness when something really nasty invades your system as well as opening the door for “superbugs” to develop, which are resistant to these products. This idea is apparently debateable, but most reports cite it when warning against using these products.
Regardless of the superbug issue, after flipping through some of these articles (a simple Google search will turns up loads of them) it looks like the antibacterial soaps aren’t any more effective at keeping germs at bay than regular soap, which means the public has once again been duped by marketing scumbags who love to prey on our safety concerns. They’re always looking for “vertical markets” to make up new products for, and they especially love to target your children: “You don’t want your child to be crawling with evil GERMS, do you?” You know what they say about things being too good to be true…