“These products imply they lower the risk of infection, which is blatantly untrue,” says Robert Sharbaugh, an epidemiologist in Charleston, S.C., who chairs of APIC’s guideline committee on the topic. “There is a misbelief that if you use this, it will cut down on disease like colds. That’s crazy, because many of these diseases are viral in nature.”
The Federal Trade Commission recently has begun cracking down on some manufacturers for making unsubstantiated health claims regarding products containing the germicides.
Perencevich advises that consumers use these soaps in appropriate situations, such as when caring for a child or a sick relative, but to take caution about using them otherwise.
“With so many of these products on the market, consumers may not even realize they are purchasing soaps that contain antibacterials,” Perencevich says. “Check the ingredients closely.”