Australian disease experts support ban on antibacterial soap products

stock sl two boys washing hands sink

When it comes to hand washing, it turns out what was good for our grandparents is good for us – plain soap and water does the job just fine.

Australian infectious disease experts want us to stop using antibacterial soaps and have welcomed a decision by the US Food and Drug Administration to stop such products being sold.

The move comes on the back of fears that prolonged use of the antibacterial hand and body washes leads to a rise in drug resistant-bacteria.

“We must consider every measure to slow the rate of antimicrobial resistance,”Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control president, Ramon Shaban told Sky News.

“Reducing the unnecessary use of such agents, in this case in products that are not used in clinical settings, is an important aspect of our collective efforts.”

Antimicrobial substances on the banned list

There are 19 antimicrobial substances of particular concern within the products that have been banned.

One of those is triclosan which, as well as being an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent, is a suspected carcinogen that studies have shown can cause liver and kidney damage and affect hormone function.

Hand Hygiene Australia director, Professor Lindsay Grayson says although this ruling relates to over-the-counter consumer products used in the community in the US rather than products used in Australian health care, the directive is consistent with the National Hand Hygiene Initiative recommendations in Australia.

Hand Hygiene Australia recommends:

  • Using alcohol-based hand rub for all clinical situations where hands are visibly clean.
  • Washing with soap and water is recommended when hands are visibly dirty or contaminated, contaminated with body fluids, or if exposure to potential spore forming organisms is strongly suspected or proven.

And for the rest of us at home, using good old-fashioned soap and water to wash our hands will do the job very nicely, thank you.

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