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Fiji Time: 12:46 PM on Monday 21 April

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Some soaps can be harmful

Luke Rawalai
Friday, January 03, 2014

ACCORDING to research carried out by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) using an antibacterial hand wash will not necessarily make you healthier.

The administration has called for a safety review into antibacterial soaps after studies suggested the soaps could cause antibiotic resistance and alter hormones.

When contacted for a comment, the Ministry of Health's communicable diseases acting national adviser Dr Mike Kama said they would await for a recommendation from the World Health Organisation before taking any actions.

"Basing our actions locally upon studies that were carried out by a few organisations is not enough, we need the recommendation of the world health body in order to map out a strategy in addressing the issue," Dr Kama said.

"At the moment the findings are still out there and have not been acknowledged by WHO.

"The use of soaps worldwide is well known but if researchers say that there is a possibility that antibacterial soaps are harmful than we need to consider what percentage of these possibility is real."

In a report by the NineMSN Health news, FDA microbiologist Dr Colleen Rogers was quoted saying that there is currently no evidence that over-the-counter antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water.

"This comes after recent studies suggested that ingredients such as triclosan in liquid soaps and triclocarban in bar soaps could lead to bacterial resistance to antibiotics or could alter hormone levels," she said.

"The studies into hormones were done in animals, but results have not been confirmed in humans.

"New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits."

Dr Rogers added that because so many consumers use antibacterial soaps, FDA believed that there should be clearly demonstrated benefits to balance any potential risks.

"The FDA proposal does not include hand sanitisers or products used in hospitals."

A lecturer in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne, Doctor Cheryl Power was also quoted in the article saying that washing one's hands was a good thing to do.

"Experiments have shown that if you're going to wash your hands, a simple hand detergent is just as effective as something that's antibacterial," she said.

"We're talking about washing our hands; we're talking about washing off bacteria and viruses picked up from other people and other things.

"They come off very easily — they don't stick to the skin therefore a simple soap and water or the alcohol based ones are thought to be very safe."