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Antibacterial Soap a Waste of Time, Experts Say

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by medea, Oct 24, 2002.

  1. macrumors 68030


    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It may be virtually impossible to buy soap in the United States that is not "antibacterial," but such products are a waste of time, experts said on Thursday.

    Not only that, but their heavy use could contribute to a whole new breed of hard-to-kill superbugs, the researchers told a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

    "It makes you wonder why they call it antibacterial, because according to our research, it isn't any more so than plain soaps," Elaine Larson, associate dean for research at the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York, said in a statement.

    "We found antimicrobial or antibacterial soaps provide no added value over plain soap."

    Soap and water works by literally washing away germs, although soap itself can kill bacteria and viruses.

    Larson noted that several studies suggest that alcohol-based gels are better ways to kill germs instead of washing them away and may be a good alternative for health care workers whose hands are damaged by repeated washings.

    "If you've got a newborn or a preschooler with a cold, you might consider using an alcohol-based waterless product for a little extra protection against germs," she said.

    "But for daily hygiene, hand-washing with regular soap is fine. Just be sure to wash all of the surfaces on your hands, the backs, between the fingers, and so on. It's not the amount of time that's important, but covering all the surfaces, as well as applying friction."

    For their study Larson's team followed primary caretakers in 222 New York City households. Half got an antimicrobial soap for daily hand washing and half were given plain soap. Neither was labeled.

    The two groups were tested after washing one time and after one year of regular use of the assigned soap.

    After a year, both groups had fewer germs on their hands, with no differences between the antibacterial soap group and the plain soap group, Larson said.
  2. Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

    This isn't exactly 'current' news. But I've gone back to regular soap and don't buy the anti bacterial any more. I hope we don't end up with a super bug from all the over use.

    Got to love mass marketing..... :rolleyes:

  3. macrumors 65816


    The whole "anti-bacterial" marketing ploy was the most brilliant idea to come out of Madison Avenue since the moniker "new and improved."

    Soap by its very nature, already IS "anti-bacterial", and there's nothing like a little pointing-out-the-obvious-and-using-it-as-a-selling-point hype to boost the bottom line and get the sheep (consumers, buying public) to believe and come in droves. It's like introducing a new pen and claiming it can write and print in any language, no batteries needed.

    So now we need "experts" to come out of the woodwork to remind us to use our common sense? My God, I was introduced to such drivel and BS way back in my days of reading MAD Magazine...I can honestly say that that magazine alone, along with having a no-nonsense British mother, informed and educated me in such outrageous tactics at a young age. And still the BS continues...magic metal rings that if worn around the wrist cure all manner of disease, people who will tell you your future over the phone (have that VISA handy!) and buying a particular car over another will make you smarter/sexier/more desirable/younger/apart from the herd.

    (That last "reason" is my favorite...marketers use it for everything, especially the youth clothing market. How Orwellian to be told that if you wear something in particular you will be different from the rest, while everyone in your peer group is doing the same thing. How scary that we buy into it.)

    P.T. Barnum was right, except it seems that one isn't born every minute....seems more these days born every second. *sigh*
  4. macrumors 68030


    Yes most of us are already aware of this, but it is in the news again and I posted it for those who were not aware of the issue.
  5. macrumors P6


    I agree that it is a advertising/marketing ploy for increase profits. The most important as mentioned earlier is soap, H20, & friction rubbing of hands!:)
  6. macrumors 68020


    You mean like advertising sugar as "a non-fat food"? Or putting a bunch of fruit or vegetables in a cardboard box, writing "ORGANIC" on the box and selling it for twice what you'd pay at the supermarket? Or for using the word "natural" in reference to any product at all?

    Unfortunately, in a society where self-determination is held sacrosanct, coercion must give way to persuasion, and public ignorance is in the interest of those doing the persuading. With an educated populace, you have to make some sense. With an ignorant populace, you just have to be able to mimic the sounds and mannerisms of someone who makes sense. Public education has become a pro forma exercise, and popular media spew outrageous and nonsensical ideas without the slightest credulity. I mean, one of the most popular shows in the country at the moment features a man who stands on a stage pretending to talk to dead people. If someone buys into that, it's hard to imagine what he wouldn't believe.

    If we're indeed decaying from the inside out, it's not because of a lack of moral education. Americans as a culture tend to have more compassion and more desire to champion the rights of the downtrodden than almost anyone else on Earth. What we're lacking is just plain old education, and that lack allows all manner of evil, opportunistic people to drag folks around by their compassion and deceive them into behaving in any way the manipulator wishes.

    Keeping the population of a nominally free society ignorant is no different than keeping the population of a feudal society weak. In the latter case you simply force people to do as you wish. In the former, you play rhetorical games to convince people that they want to do as you wish. The rhetorical path is far less bloody, and hence, one might argue, more civilized, but encouraging people to make decisions based on calculated misinformation is no less an abuse, as it nonetheless diminishes the individual's right to self-determination. The man who pretends to talk to dead people doesn't beat you and steal your money. He lies to you and makes you think you want to give him your money. And as technology makes communication easier, more and more of these people have access to your brain. Education is your only defense.

    More on topic, the "superbug" scare is more or less hype. Yes, on occasion a strain of a bacterium will evolve a resistance to antibiotics, but a more important concern in this regard is overprescription of strong antibiotics, in some cases as nothing more than a placebo. Scientists are busy creating whole new classes of antibiotics for just such cases. News reporters point to the "antibacterial" label on your bath soap because that brings it closer to home. If you're made nervous about the alleged threat in your very own bathroom then you're less likely to change the channel. But it has been shown that the precise difference between a bar of "antibacterial" soap and a bar of "regular" soap of the same brand is nothing more than the lettering on the package. Unless you're paying substantially more for the antibacterial soap, don't worry about it one way or the other. You won't help bring about a plague using soap.
  7. macrumors 6502a


    Sometimes friends of mine will criticize me for being a regular visitor/poster on a Macintosh rumors website. What they don't know is that every now and again, I come across thoughtful contributions like the one Gelfin just added.

    It's posts like these that make me return to Macrumors.com every day.

  8. macrumors 603

    A while back I saw a news report about people at emergency rooms and such washing their hands with alcohol and not soap and water. The arguments dealt with how long it takes for a proper washing of one's hands and how effecient alcohol would be in place of something time consuming.

    How come we don't see that so often?
  9. macrumors 68000


    Alcohol may kill bacteria but it is a polar substance and thus it won't wash away non-polar compounds on your hands like oils or greases (it's like washing bacon fat off of your hands with just water). Detergents emulse non-polar compounds so that they can be washed off.

    Basically, soap cleans more crap off of your hands than just alcohol.
  10. macrumors demi-god


    What if we combined the powers of alcohol and soap to great some sort of super hand cleaning stuff. We could call it alco-soap, or soap-cohol, or even salcoholop...

  11. macrumors 68000


    I can see people eating that to get drunk. :rolleyes:
  12. macrumors 68030


    Umm, the alcohol that you use to clean is not the same that people drink.........

    I also read somewhere recently that many hospitals are changing over to a new kind of gelatin type alcohol for cleaning hands and such. don't remember where that was though.....
  13. macrumors 604


    Umm there seems to be a real confusion going on here about the usefullness of alcohol as a hand cleaner.

    I do not use antibacterial soap and never have I saw this one coming a long time ago.

    Alcohol is actually great for disolving away oils contrary to a post here. We use it everyday at the shop to motorcycle engine. What we are using is a brake cleaner that is 99.9% isopropyl alchohol. Also known as rubbing alcohol.

    Your body has a fine layer of oils it secretes these oils are an essential component to protect you from diseases and infections. It prevents many bacterias from being simply absorbed through the skin. If you were to use alcohol to clean your hands you would remove this layer and in a since damager your skins ability to protect itself.

    Also I know this from working at the shop. Alcohol is extremely bad for you. If you were to use it every day to clean your hands you would eventually devolop an extreme chemical intolerance where you would be nearly sick everytime you got it on your hands. I have seen people that have gotten this way. This is because alcohol is absorbed through your skin and into your body. After a while you get to much for your body to deal with and you basically develop an allergic reaction. This is why I where gloves when I work on bikes. You do not want to get these oils and alcohols on your skin if you can prevent it.
  14. macrumors newbie


    Persons in the medical field have to take great care as to what they clean their hands with as many soaps will also destroy the skin on their hands. This is the result of having to wash up 50 or more times a day. Alcohol and specialized soaps are a way to combat this problem.
    Does anyone remember the magazine article on 25 ways we could destroy the world? One of them was antibacterial products on the ISS. Perhaps we could accomplish the same thing here on earth! ha ha..
  15. macrumors 68030


  16. macrumors regular

    The strait dirt

    Exccellent point. Newbies on MOSR maybe cant help with tech rumors, but skin and germs- hey, thats how I make a living (I am a dermatologist and a microbiologist)
    1. we use alcohol sanitizers because no one ever washes hands for 30 seconds with soap, so alcohol (thought worse than soap for killing bugs and removing dirt) is in fact better since it has better compliance.
    2. alcohol removes long chain fatty acids frmo the skin which are directly toxic to certain bacterial speacies (strep). In th eold days nurses would sponge people with fevers down with alcohol washes to cool them down.
    3. some "antibacterial" soaps do contain antimocrobials which can promote resistance, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the gallons of stuff that go into livestock (and the subsequent resistant bacteria like salmonella)
    4. my iMac 17 in kicks ass, my iPod synchs, but my Visor edge, though recognized in my iSynch list, only does a hotsynch with the palm desktop. I have to export Address book and iCal databeses manually. Any help? (how is that for a way to weasel some help...)
  17. macrumors 68020


    I wish I enjoyed listening to you talk as much as you yourself do... :rolleyes:
  18. macrumors 604


    Re: The strait dirt

    Start a thread about this. You will get more help on it while helping prevent this thread from going off topic.
  19. macrumors 6502a

    Is it just me or do people feel that their friends fail to was their hands after using the bathroom. I feel that it doesn't matter how they wash their hands as long as they make some atempt. Arn poll idea ;)

    How many of your friends wash their hands after using the bathroom.

    What are you talking about, washing your hands?
  20. macrumors 604


    My old basketball coach said that only 3% of all males wash their hands after going to the bathroom. I have to admit, I don't always wash my hands, but I do when I need to. Ya know what I mean :D.

    I buy soap according to how it smells. Not according to how well it works :D:D:D.
  21. macrumors G4

    Ick, only 3%?!?!!!

    I wash my hands every time aftr touching the toilet!

    Ick, ick ick!!

    Attached Files:

  22. macrumors 604


    That's the great thing about being a guy. No need to touch the toilet usually.
  23. macrumors 68020


    That's the great thing about being a girl... no need to touch your filthy genitals usually. :)
  24. macrumors newbie

    Robert Ray Hedges is taking over the internet.
  25. macrumors 68030


    Doctors urged to give up hand washing

    In more news on the subject:
    CHICAGO (AP) -- The government has issued guidelines urging doctors and nurses to abandon the ritual of washing their hands with soap and water between patients and instead rub on fast-drying alcohol gels to kill more germs.

    The goal? Reduce the hospital spread of viruses and bacteria that infect an estimated 2 million people in the United States each year and kill about 90,000.

    Many hospitals, anticipating the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have already made the change, and studies show this can cut their infection rates in half.

    Soap and water have been the standard for generations. But washing up properly between each patient can take a full minute and is often skipped to save time, especially in busy intensive care units where the risk of spreading germs is greatest.

    While the alcohol-based gels and solutions kill more microbes, the main advantage is they are easier to use. With vials clipped to their uniforms, nurses can quickly swish their hands while on the move without stopping at a sink. The CDC estimates this saves an hour in an eight-hour intensive care shift.

    "We've learned that using alcohol-based products improves adherence to hand hygiene," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, the CDC's director. "We will end up with more people doing the right thing and cleaning their hands."

    She released the guidelines in Chicago at a meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America.

    The solutions are intended only to kill germs, not remove visible dirt. So hospital workers are still expected to wash up if they get messy hands. Also, surgeons have the choice of using the gels or sticking with antimicrobial soap.

    Many brands of the solutions are available in grocery stores. They vary in how they look, feel and smell. But all contain 60 percent to 90 percent ethanol or isopropanol, and they are considered equally effective at killing germs.

    The new guidelines apply only to hospitals and clinics, where there are many particularly nasty microbes, along with sick people who are susceptible to catching them.

    At home, where such dangerous bugs are far less common, experts say ordinary soap and water are probably all people routinely need. But the alcohol gels can make sense in situations where water is not be easily available, such as at picnics, in portable toilets or on airplanes.

    Hospital workers are instructed to clean up between each patient, before they put on gloves, after they take them off, when inserting catheters or when doing anything else that involves contact with body fluids.

    Besides giving individual containers of gel to their staff, hospitals put dispensers at patients' bedsides, in clinics and wherever sick people are seen.

    The alcohol dries in seconds without a towel and is so easy to use that "it is almost indefensible now not to clean your hands. People can't say they are too busy anymore," said Dr. David Gilbert of Providence Portland Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, president of the Infectious Disease Society.

    Using the gels involves squirting a dime-size dollop on one palm, then rubbing the hands together, covering all the surfaces, until the hands are dry.

    Typically, people carry between 10,000 and 10 million bacteria on each hand. The medical profession has long known this is one way disease is transmitted. Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis pioneered the field in Austria in 1846, when he speculated that doctors spread "cadaverous particles" when they delivered babies after doing autopsies. He insisted that students clean their hands with chlorine.

    Introduction of the alcohol gels "is the biggest revolution in hand hygiene since Semmelweis," said Elaine Larson, associate dean for research at Columbia School of Nursing. "We used to say 'hand washing.' Now it's hand hygiene."


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