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Anti Antibacterial?: February 14, 2014

Julie Briggs is an evangelist for hand washing.

“Yes it’s really important. We’re very proactive about hand washing, health in general,” says Julie Briggs, child advocate with Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Briggs goes into schools and spreads the word to kids about not spreading germs.

“After I leave for the next week or so, they’re really conscious about really washing their hands, touching things, and being careful about those germs they’re spreading,” says Briggs. 

While the FDA supports hand washing, the agency is questioning the safety of antibacterial soaps.  Chemicals may be ineffective at best and at worst, harmful. The ingredient triclosan, found in most antibacterials is what’s causing concern. Family doctor Mala Singh believes soap and water is your best defense.

“Hand washing with soap I think is better than using anti-bacterial it gives you some protection, but not all,” says Dr. Singh, with Lee Memorial Health System.

The FDA is putting antibacterials under the microscope - not to be confused with hand sanitizers. How can you tell the difference? Sanitizers and wipes are usually alcohol-based and don’t require water. And they don’t have heavy-duty chemicals that might be harmful.

Product makers will have to prove their safety or re-formulate the soaps. Experts fear routine exposure to these products is contributing to a surge in drug-resistant germs that hinder prescription medications.

“You have to have some immune response to have anti-bodies triggered up for a fight. People are constantly using them and it stops responding,” says Dr. Singh.

So the best advice may be what these kids are learning to lather up and wash the germs away- the old school way.