Antibacterial research should be focused on facts, not fear

WASHINGTON, April 15 /PRNewswire/ — The latest attacks on effective germ-killing products are more about hype and headlines than real-world science, according to The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA).

SDA, the trade association for the U.S. cleaning products industry, expressed disappointment at Virginia Tech publicity materials promoting recent antibacterial-related laboratory research, with headlines like, “Being Too Clean Could Be Hazardous to Your Health and the Environment.”

“Headlines such as these are way over the top and denigrate efforts to rationally discuss scientific research in the public arena,” said SDA in a statement.

The research in question suggests consumers’ usage of antibacterial cleaning and hygiene products leads to exposure to quantities of chloroform. The researcher alleges that chloroform is created when the antibacterial ingredient triclosan comes into contact with chlorine in tap water.

SDA points out that:

* Under usual conditions of municipal drinking water conditioning and
chlorination, no triclosan would be present and, consequently, reaction
products cannot be formed at the point of chlorination. The researchers
themselves exclude any risks associated with the drinking water supply.

* Chlorine concentration in domestic water supplies is generally far below
water-treatment scenarios described in the laboratory experiments.
Maximum chlorine concentrations, as well as the chloroform
concentrations, are regulated to low levels at the tap, eliminating any
potential problem in the household.

* This research does not raise new concerns for producers or users of
antimicrobial household products. However, it is strongly advised that
chlorine cleaners and disinfectants must not be used in combination with
other cleaners to avoid degradation–as indicated on the product

* Triclosan has been used safely and effectively in hygiene products for
more than three decades and is comprehensively regulated by authorities
nationally and around the globe. Consumers can continue to use these
products with confidence.

* Cleanliness is especially important in view of the latest research in
the New England Journal of Medicine(1) (Fridkin, et. al.) indicating
staph infections that once targeted hospital patients or those in poor
health are starting to hit the community at-large — people out and
about, not in the hospital, and who are otherwise healthy.

— Dr. Philip Tierno, an infectious disease expert at New York
University Medical Center, expressed his concern in
news reports(2) by stating that these cases “are so serious, that
almost a quarter of the infections, of which most are skin
infections, require hospitalization.”

— “This is the time to use antibacterial soaps if there were ever a
time,” Dr. Tierno was quoted as saying.

In conclusion, SDA expressed its hope that “researchers and their publicity departments would practice some discretion in how they market their research. Stoking groundless fears detracts from rational scientific discussion that is too often lacking in today’s 24/7 media culture.”


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