Anti-bacterial washes safe for humans

Anti-bacterial washes safe for humans
Bottles of anti-bacterial soap in a store in the US.The HSA says there is insufficient evidence to recommend changing consumer use of anti-bacterial products. Consumers should continue washing their hands using proper handwashing techniques to protect themselves against germs.

Triclosan is an ingredient added to many consumer products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination ("US reviewing safety of anti-bacterial washes"; Dec 18 and "Confusion over anti-bacterial washes" by Dr Quek Koh Choon; Dec 20).

Triclosan is not currently known to be harmful to humans.

Recent laboratory data involving animals suggests that long-term and daily exposure to certain active ingredients used in anti-bacterial soaps such as triclosan could pose certain health risks.

However, this finding has not been observed in humans, and data showing effects in animals does not always predict effects in humans.

More research is needed to review the effectiveness and long-term safety of antiseptic active ingredients such as triclosan.

Based on the available data, there is insufficient evidence to recommend changing consumer use of anti-bacterial products, including those containing triclosan.

Consumers should continue to wash their hands as an effective way of protecting themselves against germs, using proper handwashing techniques as recommended by the Health Promotion Board at Consumers concerned about using anti-bacterial hand soaps or body washes containing triclosan can consider washing with just regular soap and water.

In Singapore, triclosan can be used as an antiseptic in topical antiseptic preparations and cosmetic preparations for the treatment of acne, as well as a preservative in cosmetic products, such as hand soaps, body washes and toothpaste.

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) previously conducted a risk assessment with triclosan used as a topical antiseptic at a concentration of 1 per cent, and assessed that it is within acceptable safety limits.

As a preservative in cosmetic products to slow or stop the growth of bacteria, fungi, and mildew, triclosan is allowed to be used up to a maximum of 0.3 per cent.

This limit is also adopted in the European Union and under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

As these are rinse-off products, there is minimal contact time between the products and the body surface, resulting in minimal exposure of the user to triclosan.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has initiated further scientific and regulatory review of active ingredients found in anti-bacterial products such as triclosan.

HSA is closely monitoring the international developments concerning the review and will initiate appropriate regulatory actions based on the outcome of the review.

Raymond Chua

(Assistant Professor)

Group Director

Health Products Regulation Group

Health Sciences Authority

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