Antibacterial research should focus on facts, not fear

Triclosan-containing cleaning products have 30+ year track record of safety, effectiveness, says Soap and Detergent Association...

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2005 (PRNewswire) -- The latest attacks on effective germ- killing products are more about hype and headlines than real-world science, according to The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA).

SDA, the trade association for the U.S. cleaning products industry, expressed disappointment at Virginia Tech publicity materials promoting recent antibacterial-related laboratory research, with headlines like, "Being Too Clean Could Be Hazardous to Your Health and the Environment."

"Headlines such as these are way over the top and denigrate efforts to rationally discuss scientific research in the public arena," said SDA in a statement.

The research in question suggests consumers' usage of antibacterial cleaning and hygiene products leads to exposure to quantities of chloroform. The researcher alleges that chloroform is created when the antibacterial ingredient triclosan comes into contact with chlorine in tap water.

SDA points out that:
* Under usual conditions of municipal drinking water conditioning and chlorination, no triclosan would be present and, consequently, reaction products cannot be formed at the point of chlorination. The researchers themselves exclude any risks associated with the drinking water supply.

* Chlorine concentration in domestic water supplies is generally far below water-treatment scenarios described in the laboratory experiments. Maximum chlorine concentrations, as well as the chloroform concentrations, are regulated to low levels at the tap, eliminating any potential problem in the household.

* This research does not raise new concerns for producers or users of antimicrobial household products. However, it is strongly advised that chlorine cleaners and disinfectants must not be used in combination with other cleaners to avoid degradation -- as indicated on the product labels.

* Triclosan has been used safely and effectively in hygiene products for more than three decades and is comprehensively regulated by authorities nationally and around the globe. Consumers can continue to use these products with confidence.

* Cleanliness is especially important in view of the latest research in the New England Journal of Medicine(1) (Fridkin, et. al.) indicating staph infections that once targeted hospital patients or those in poor health are starting to hit the community at-large -- people out and about, not in the hospital, and who are otherwise healthy.

-- Dr. Philip Tierno, an infectious disease expert at New York University Medical Center, expressed his concern in news reports(2) by stating that these cases "are so serious, that almost a quarter of the infections, of which most are skin infections, require hospitalization." He also is quoted as saying: "This is the time to use antibacterial soaps if there were ever a time."

In conclusion, SDA expressed its hope that "researchers and their publicity departments would practice some discretion in how they market their research. Stoking groundless fears detracts from rational scientific discussion that is too often lacking in today's 24/7 media culture."

For more information, see the SDA Antibacterial Information webpage:

The Soap and Detergent Association ( is a non-profit trade association representing manufacturers of household, industrial, and institutional cleaning products; their ingredients and finished packaging; and oleochemical producers. SDA members produce more than 90% of the cleaning products marketed in the U.S. The SDA is located at 1500 K Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005.


(1) Fridkin et al., (2005) Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Disease in Three Communities, New England Journal of Medicine, 352:1436-1444.
(2) Dr. Mike Rosen, "Resistant staph spread," April 7, 2005, WTNH-TV (New Haven, CT) website,


More in Drinking Water