Common soaps could endanger healthcare workers, study finds

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Healthcare facilities should consider replacing antibacterial soaps containing the chemical triclosan, University of California-San Francisco researchers assert in a recent Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine article. The conclusion echoes recently updated hand hygiene guidelines.

The UCSF investigators compared urine samples from two groups of 38 doctors and nurses. The participants who worked at a hospital using a 0.3% triclosan antibacterial soap had “significantly higher” triclosan levels in their urine than those who used plain soap and water on the job.

The Food and Drug Administration currently is reviewing triclosan, which has been linked by research to a variety of adverse effects, including hormonal interference and developmental problems in fetuses and newborns, the study authors noted. While it is the FDA's “duty” to get triclosan products off the market if the substance is harmful, healthcare facilities would be wise to “err on the side of caution” and opt for plain soaps, they wrote.

Triclosan soap has been tied to worse infection control outcomes than alternatives such as chlorhexidine soap and alcohol-based hand rubs, according to the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The groups recently released updated hand hygiene guidelines that told healthcare providers to avoid triclosan soaps.

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