Tighter rules on antibacterial hand soaps proposed by FDA - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Tighter rules on antibacterial hand soaps proposed by FDA

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A warning tonight from the Food and Drug Administration to the makers of antibacterial soap: prove that they work.

They're used by millions of people every day. Now the FDA wants to know how effective the antibacterial soaps and washes are and what, if any, long term effects they could have on us.

The FDA said consumers are banking on the antibacterial bottles and bars to wash away more germs, but there's no evidence supporting that claim.

"For me…I don't know, the fact that it says "antibacterial" I feel a little cleaner," consumer Erica Norman said.

Other consumers said there is no rhyme or reason to the purchase decision; it was just what was available.

Now the federal government wants to know if antibacterial soaps and body washes work better than plain old bars of soap and water in stopping the spread of illness and infection.

Alexander Tomich, the Director of Infection and Control at Rush University Medical Center, said "the over the counter soap that you may buy at the supermarket have an agent called triclosan which has been proven to have some antibacterial components to it. That's really what the FDA is trying to get at with their ruling, is that agent they say, work as much, if not better, than the more traditional alternative."

The FDA has had concerns about that ingredient and its long term usage since the late 1970's, but took no action.

Now because there are nearly 2,000 antibacterial soaps on store shelves claiming to kill germs, the FDA said consumers deserve more information. If not, those companies will be forced to re-label their bottles if they want to remain on the market.

The FDA also wants to know if the main active ingredient carries any potential health risks

"The primary way to stop the spread of infection is frequent hand hygiene and it's the friction of the scrubbing that actually washes off the bacteria down the drain when you use soap and water," Tomich said.

Those that use the hand sanitizers or wipes that contain about 60 percent alcohol are fine. Experts said those products are still pretty safe when you can't get to the sink and wash your hands.

But, again, they said just plain old fashioned soap and water, a number of times throughout the day will give you the best results.

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