Is antibacterial soap effective and is it safe?

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor
Headline Goes Here SXC

You might want to take along some gloves or hand sanitizer if you're headed to one of the "top five germiest attractions," as named by TripAdvisor.

HOUSTON - You'll find them in just about every school and every home: those antibacterial liquid soaps that help kill bacteria.

Now the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the safety of an ingredient in those products because they might increase the risk of infertility and early puberty.
Triclosan is found in 75 percent of antibacterial products, even some toys and toothpastes.

It's not a new ingredient. In fact, the FDA has been reviewing it for nearly four decades.

Scientists have said the chemical may increase the risk of infertility, early puberty and other hormone related problems in humans.

The ingredient has been under FDA review for nearly 40 years and the agency aims to finalize its review sometime this year.

Endocrinologist Dr. Kelly Wirfel with UTHealth Medical School told Local 2, "Well, it's about time. There's lots of questions and everybody wants to know is this going to cause problems to me, my children? What do we do about it?"

Houstonian Josie Karaze remembers hearing about the chemical 10 years ago.
She said, "They should find chemists that can put together a purer product. It needs to be more pure."

Andrea Johnson said, "It is crazy, interesting too that it would be in the soap. Is it helping anything?"

Maybe not. Many believe the chemical is ineffective.

Studies have shown antibacterial soaps with triclosan are no better at reducing bacteria on skin than regular soap.

Still, Wirfel advises families wait for the FDA's conclusions before going out of their way to avoid the chemical.

She explained, "It's not the only product. We've got multiple products that have concerns that we're exposed to and is that also causing some of these problems? So whether triclosan is one of them is the issue or combination of one or any of the others."

Some studies have shown longer hand washing tends to work better than added antibacterial ingredients.

The rule of thumb: wash hands for at least 20 seconds.

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