Dec 30, 2013

    HSA spells out its stand on antibacterial soaps

    WE REFER to your news article "Antibacterial soaps may hurt more than help" (MyPaper, Dec 18).

    We would like to update readers on the Health Sciences Authority's (HSA's) review of triclosan, which is an ingredient added to many consumer products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination.

    We would like to clarify that triclosan is not currently known to be harmful to humans.

    Recent laboratory data involving animals has suggested that long-term and daily exposure to certain active ingredients, such as triclosan, used in antibacterial soaps could pose certain health risks. However, this finding has not been observed in humans and data showing effects in animals does not always predict effects in humans.

    More research is needed to review the effectiveness and long-term safety of antiseptic active ingredients such as triclosan.

    Based on the available data, there is insufficient evidence to recommend changing consumer use of anti-bacterial products, including those containing triclosan.

    Consumers should continue to wash their hands as an effective way of protecting themselves against germs, and using proper hand-washing techniques as recommended by the Health Promotion Board. Please visit www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/5652 for more details.

    Consumers concerned about using antibacterial hand soaps or body washes containing triclosan can consider just washing with regular soap and water.

    In Singapore, triclosan can be used as an antiseptic in topical antiseptic preparations and cosmetic preparations for the treatment of acne, as well as a preservative in cosmetic products, such as hand soaps, body washes and toothpaste.

    The HSA had previously conducted a risk assessment when triclosan is used as a topical antiseptic at a concentration of 1 per cent and had assessed that it is within acceptable safety limits.

    As a preservative in cosmetic products to slow or stop the growth of bacteria, fungi and mildew, triclosan is allowed to be used up to a maximum of 0.3 per cent. This limit is also adopted in the European Union and under the Asean Cosmetic Directive.

    As these products are rinse-off products, there is minimal contact time between the products and the body surface, resulting in minimal exposure of the user to triclosan.

    The United States Food and Drug Administration has just initiated a scientific and regulatory review of active ingredients, such as triclosan, found in antibacterial products.

    The HSA is closely monitoring the international developments concerning the review and will initiate appropriate regulatory actions based on its outcome.


    Group Director

    Health Products Regulation Group

    Health Sciences Authority