What’s the myth?
It has been suggested that use of antibacterial cleaning and hygiene products contributes to development of bacterial resistance. Increased resistance in human bacterial populations is a major public health concern, as it may reduce the ability to treat serious infections.
Although the major cause of this increased resistance is overuse and misapplication of antibiotics to treat disease, the use of antibacterial cleaning and hygiene products has also been implicated.
Triclosan is one common ingredient in antibacterial cleaning and hygiene products that has been implicated in bacterial resistance. Another ingredient is triclocarban.
FACT: There is no evidence that use of antibacterial products causes antibacterial resistance
Antibacterial hand products have been in use for over 40 years. Over this time, several studies have been conducted to investigate the possible link in households and in clinical settings between triclosan and bacterial resistance. No evidence has been presented to prove that antibacterial products containing triclosan or triclocarban - either in the household or in hospitals and other healthcare facilities - increases bacterial resistance.
For example, a 2011 study showed “no increased antibiotic resistance in participant groups regularly using wash products containing triclocarban or triclosan…This adds to and confirms previous yet limited community data showing lack of evidence that the use of antibacterial wash products facilitates antibiotic resistance and antibiotic/antibacterial cross-resistance.”
The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), the Australian chemical ingredient regulator, reviewed the safety of triclosan as a ‘Priority Existing Chemical’ and released their report in 2009. NICNAS concluded “that there is no evidence that the use of triclosan is leading to an increase in triclosan-resistant bacterial populations or that there is any increased risk to humans regarding antibiotic resistance.”
FACT: The recent decision to remove certain antibacterial ingredients from antibacterial hand wash products sold in the USA is not based on new evidence of bacterial resistance
On 2 September 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new rule on certain antibacterial ingredients in consumer antibacterial hand wash products sold in the USA. This means that these ingredients, which include triclosan and triclocarban, cannot be used in these products for the US market by September 2017. The ingredients are still permitted in products used in clinical settings and in consumer hand wipes.
The FDA's decision was based on lack of information rather than any new evidence of safety concerns. The FDA states that “[A]ntibacterial hand and body wash manufacturers did not provide the necessary data to establish safety and effectiveness for the 19 active ingredients addressed in this final rulemaking”. As a result, the FDA decided that “manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections".
Australian regulators are reviewing the implications of the US decision for hand wash products sold locally that contain antibacterial ingredients. At present there is no ban on these ingredients in Australia.
The bottom line? You can continue to use antibacterial products with confidence. There is no new evidence to show that using these products in the home contributes to bacterial resistance.
For more information, see www.fightgermsnow.com/science-antibacterial-hand-soaps-antimicrobial-triclocarban-antibiotic-resistance-hygience-hands-sanitizer
 Cole E. C., Addison R. M., Dulaney P. D., Leese K. E., Madanat H. M. and Guffey A. M. 2011, Investigation of antibiotic and antibacterial susceptibility and resistance in Staphylococcus from the skin of users and non-users of antibacterial wash products in home environments, International Journal of Microbiology Research, Vol. 3(2), pages 90-96
 National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme 2009, PEC Assessment Report 30, Triclosan. Accessible from https://www.nicnas.gov.au/chemical-information/pec-assessments
 FDA News Release, 2 September 2016, "FDA issues final rule on safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps". www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm517478.htm