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June 14, 2000 12:35 PM

Discussion by American Medical Association a Boon to Bacteria, a Bust for Consumers

 CTFA/SDA Say Consumers Need Antibacterial Products to Fight Disease-Causing Germs

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Consumers should continue to use antibacterial personal care/cleaning products in the home with confidence, according to the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA), The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), and a leading health expert, Dr. Charles Gerba. They were responding to the American Medical Association's (AMA) discussion that could dissuade consumers from using an important defense against disease-causing germs.

Antibacterial personal care/cleaning products, depending on their formulation and application, kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause skin infections, intestinal illnesses or other commonly transmitted diseases. These include potentially fatal illnesses caused by bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli.

"Our society is increasingly concerned about the very real threat of disease caused by bacteria. Fortunately, antibacterial personal-care products provide an extra measure of protection for consumers at home and doctors and nurses in hospitals," said Ed Kavanaugh, President of CTFA, the national trade association representing the cosmetic, toiletry and fragrance industry. "That is why there is such a demand for these products."

The American Medical Association's caution to consumers about using antimicrobial soaps and washes is a mistake, said Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of Environmental Microbiology at the University of Arizona and a world-renowned expert on bacteria.

"It is irresponsible for credible medical professionals to dismiss the entire category of antimicrobial products that fight disease-causing germs based on speculative scientific theories," Dr. Gerba said. "These products dramatically reduce the risk of contracting infections from common bacteria, such as salmonella or E.coli, in the home.

"The simplest defense against disease is prevention, and the first defense is always good hygiene," Dr. Gerba added. "And antimicrobial products have been shown to be an essential part of a good hygiene routine."

The American Medical Association's discussion is based on untested scientific theory, the CTFA said. In speculating on the role of personal-care products in causing antibiotic resistance, the American Medical Association is diverting attention away from the proven causes of antibacterial resistance.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors write 50 million unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics each year. It is this over-prescription of drugs -- and their misuse by patients -- that are the key reasons for the emergence of antibiotic resistance, experts say.

"The tangible solution to this problem of antibiotic resistance is in doctors' hands," Ernie Rosenberg, President of SDA said. "Putting the burden on consumers - and taking away effective defenses against disease-causing bacteria - is not the answer."

Added Dr. Gerba: "Civilization has struggled for thousands of years to fight germs for a reason: Germs are bad and getting sick all the time will not make us healthier or immune to other diseases. The real issue remains the overuse and over-prescription of the antibiotic medicines and their use in animal feed."

Because antibiotic resistance and its causes is a critical public health issue, the industry supports the AMA's call for further research on this issue. Since we regard all consumer health questions as being important, the manufacturers of antibacterial products are conducting additional research to further explore all issues that may have an impact on the use of our products.

You can view more detailed information on the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial products on ACI’s Antibacterial Information page, at www.cleaninginstitute.org/antibacterials.