Does antibacterial soap do more harm than good? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Does antibacterial soap do more harm than good?

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Celia Brugman is a community benefits manager at a Los Angeles hospital and finds herself needing to wash her hands about 20 times a day, mostly with antibacterial soap.

"You expect to be protected from a potential illness, that if you did not use that soap you would be more exposed to it," Brugman.

But the Food and Drug Administration says certain antibacterial soaps may actually pose a health risk. The FDA says companies should prove their products are safe and better at preventing illnesses than plain soap.

"We still have a lot of questions about the risk of these products when they are used every day for years on end, particularly by children," said Dr. Sandra Kweder of the FDA.

The government proposal targets soaps and body washes that contain chemicals like triclosan. It's used in about 75 percent of liquid antibacterial soaps.

"We believe the data shows that that these products are safe and effective. And we certainly hope that the FDA realizes that," said Brian Sansoni, the vice president of sustainable initiatives at the American Cleaning Institute.

The FDA says overuse of the antibacterial soaps caused hormonal problems in animal lab tests, and the agency is concerned about the potential impact on humans.

"That could be as mild as feeling tired or feeling really excited, or it could be as severe as delaying or hastening puberty," said Dr. Kalvin Yu, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

If the FDA approves the plan, manufacturers would have until 2016 to show that their products are safe and effective.

If companies fail to prove their products are safe and effective, they will be forced to re-label, reformulate or remove their products from the market.

The FDA's announcement comes 41 years after it was first asked to evaluate the safety of chemicals in antibacterial products.

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