Liberty Goodwin, Director

P.O. Box 40441, Providence, RI 02906

Tel. 401-351-9193,  E-Mail:


(Lighting the Way to Less Toxic Living)


Experts Refute Anti-Bacterial Soap Claims


By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press WriterThu Oct 20, 5:45 PM ET


Popular antibacterial soaps and washes offer no more protection than regular soap and water, a federal advisory panel said Thursday, telling companies to prove their products are better if they expect to continue making claims to the public.  The independent expert panel, which advises the Food and Drug Administration, said by an 11-1 vote that it saw no added benefits to antibacterials when compared with soapy handwashing.


Panelists also said soaps that use synthetic chemicals — as do many products which claim to eliminate 99 percent of germs they encounter — could contribute to the growth of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.  Those risks, coupled with a lack of demonstrated benefits compared with soap and water, raised the prospect of new limits on an industry that has grown astronomically in the past decade.


The experts did not vote to recommend that the FDA take any specific regulatory action against antibacterials, but did urge the agency to study the products' risks versus benefits.  "There's no evidence they are a good value," Dr. Alastair Wood, chairman of the Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee, said after the meeting.  Panelist Dr. Mary E. Tinetti said unless antibacterials can show some added benefit, "I think we're seeing a lot of sentiment against (antibacterials) being marketed to the consumer."  Still, committee members said such products reduce infections as well as soap and water do.  The experts also wondered whether antibacterials may provide added benefit to some people who are particularly at risk for certain illnesses.


The FDA is not bound by the decisions of its advisory panels, but often follows their advice.  The agency has the authority to add warning labels to or restrict the marketing of such soaps and related items, but it has given no indication any such actions are imminent.  Representatives of the soap industry say antibacterials are safe and more effective than regular soap, although they provided little data to support that assertion.  The industry contends that killing germs is better than washing them off.  "The importance of controlling bacteria in the home is no different than the professional setting," said Elizabeth Anderson, associate general counsel for the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association.  "We feel strongly that consumers must continue to have the choice to use these products."  Industry representatives said they would provide more data to the FDA showing the products are safe and effective.


FDA officials and panelists raised concerns about whether the antibacterials contribute to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, and said the agency has not found any medical studies that definitively linked specific antibacterial products to reduced rates of infection.  Both kinds of soaps reduced infections in households, but neither one worked better than the other, experts told the panel.  Antibacterial products kill most of the bacteria they encounter.  Regular soap helps separate bacteria from the skin so the bacteria wash down the drain or transfer to a towel.


Dr. Stuart B. Levy, president of the Alliance for Prudent Use of Antibiotics, said laboratory studies have suggested the soaps sometimes leave behind bacteria that have a better ability to flush threatening substances — from antibacterial soap chemicals to antibiotics intended to cure infections.  "What we're seeing is evolution in action," he said of the process.  


He advocated restricting antibacterial products from consumer use, leaving them for hospitals and homes with very sick people, where he says they are needed most.  "Bacteria are not going to be destroyed," he said.  "They've seen dinosaurs come and go.  They will be happy to see us come and go.  Any attempt to sterilize our home is fraught with failure."

Levy said overuse of antibiotics is the main cause of bacteria's developing resistance to them.  He acknowledged that a year-long study showed that homes using antibacterial soaps did not show an increase in resistant bacteria in significant numbers, but he argued the soaps will still contribute to resistance over a longer period.  Panelists also distinguished alcohol-based hand cleansers from antibacterial soaps and washes.  The cleansers are particularly useful in situations where there is no soap and water.


Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide as Disinfectants


by Judy Stouffer, B.S., M.S., SFO

Ecology Commission, St. Joseph Fraternity

( )


You can make your kitchen a cleaner, safer place and fight bacteria, without exposing yourself and your family to toxic chemicals that also damage the environment. You can use a simple safe disinfecting spray that is more effective than any of the commercial cleaners in killing bacteria.  As a bonus, it is inexpensive!  Susan Sumner, a food scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, worked out the recipe for just such a sanitizing combo.  All you need is three percent hydrogen peroxide, the same strength available at the drug store for gargling or disinfecting wounds, and plain white or apple cidar vinegar, and a pair of brand new clean sprayers, like the kind you use to dampen laundry before ironing.


If you're cleaning vegetables or fruit, just spritz them well first with both the vinegar and the hydrogen peroxide, and then rinse them off under running water.  It doesn't matter which you use first - you can spray with the vinegar then the hydrogen peroxide, or with the hydrogen peroxide followed by the vinegar.  You won't get any lingering taste of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, and neither is toxic to you if a small amount remains on the produce.  As a bonus:  The paired sprays work exceptionally well in sanitizing counters and other food preparation surfaces -- including wood cutting boards.  In tests run at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, pairing the two mists killed virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, or E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces when used in this fashion, making this spray combination more effective at killing these potentially lethal bacteria than chlorine bleach or any commercially available kitchen cleaner.


The best results came from using one mist right after the other - it is 10 times more effective than using either spray by itself and more effective than mixing the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in one sprayer.

[References: Science News 9/29/96; Science News 8/8/98].



Why is “Green” Cleaning Important?  Emerging studies indicate that common household cleaning chemicals are in the blood and urine of most Americans.  Many common cleaning products can increase your risk of asthma, and can be asthma triggers in those who already have that condition. Asthma is the number one cause for school absenteeism.  Children are especially susceptible to the potential harm presented by cleaning chemicals. Aside from being more exposed to environmental toxins, a child’s developing body is less capable of metabolizing and excreting these toxins – which increases the risks to their central nervous system, reproductive organs, immune system, and lungs.


Less-toxic products will help you keep your house clean. They can even out-perform more toxic products.




For more information on healthier cleaning and household products:

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