Article by: Perry Romanowski
I like the PCPC and believe that for the most part they do an excellent job of ensuring that our cosmetic products are safe and effective. The cosmetic industry is not interested in poisoning it’s consumers and the PCPC helps prevent a waste of time and effort that the FDA would have to expend if it had to enforce more regulation. I also think the INCI is an excellent resource for all people interested in cosmetics.
However, the PCPC is not perfect and the launch of their recent website FightGermsNow.com is a good reminder.
The goal of the website is laudable. They aim to be the the official source on antibacterial hygiene products. This is great. Consumers, scientists, and regulators could use a site like this. I’m all for giving people information and fighting germs is certainly important. I also like the way they have a tab for the relevant regulations with links to the proper governmental agencies. Finally, I like the safety information they provide. No doubt, antibacterial products are safe to use (at least for the user).
After that, it goes downhill for me. They have a tab of ‘Surveys’ which lists people’s attitudes about antibacterial products. This is fine enough but I don’t exactly understand why it is useful. Perhaps regulators might find it interesting. But it seems to me to just be a measure of how well people are responding to the marketing efforts of companies that sell antibacterial soaps. It is also presented in a way that suggests that antibacterial soaps are good because the majority of people use them and find them useful.
I have to say that whether people find them useful or not is relevant to whether they are actually useful. This is the kind of thing you would see in a marketing effort for antibacterial soap rather than in a scientific website about it.
While the survey tab is just bad, the really ugly stuff is the things included under the “Facts” and “Science” tabs. These things are not Facts and the Science is not presented as Science.
Let’s look at the Facts and Science pages.
One claim they make is that
“Using personal cleaning products that contain an active antibacterial or antimicrobial ingredient helps to provide extra protection against germs that cause many common illnesses (e.g. skin infections, food poisoning, intestinal illnesses).”
I’m not sure there is good evidence for this. Certainly not good enough evidence to call it a fact.
This is on the antibacterial soap page but then again on the Science page.
”Antibacterial hand washes have been shown to reduce the numbers of germs on the skin to a greater extent than washing with plain soap”
I found this strange because I remember reading this report Antibacterial soap is not better than regular soap. Perhaps there was another study that countered the claims made by this study.
What I appreciate about the FightGermsNow website is that they provide links to studies to support their claim. This is good. This is science. Unfortunately, the links they provided do not support what they are claiming as FACT.
Analysis of FACTS
For example, in support of “FACT: Antibacterial hand soaps provide greater germ-fighting protection than regular soap and water” they list a scientific model and expert panel review as evidence to support the fact.
STRIKE 1 — Models and expert opinions are good predictions but they don’t make something a FACT.
They list the abstract but upon further investigation, they REMOVED a crucial sentence in the abstract which disputes what they list as a FACT!
The website writes “Antimicrobial hand soaps provide a greater bacterial reduction than nonantimicrobial soaps. Confounding factors, such as compliance, soap volume, and wash time, may all influence the outcomes of studies.”
But the full abstract says “Antimicrobial hand soaps provide a greater bacterial reduction than nonantimicrobial soaps. However, the link between greater bacterial reduction and a reduction of disease has not been definitively demonstrated. Confounding factors, such as compliance, soap volume, and wash time, may all influence the outcomes of studies. “
STRIKE 2 — Leaving out statements that don’t support your fact is a clear manipulation.
Then another study they provide as support for their fact is Comparative efficacy of hand hygiene agents in the reduction of bacteria and viruses
Somehow they didn’t read the whole conclusion because it clearly states that “Effective hand hygiene for high levels of viral contamination with a nonenveloped virus was best achieved by physical removal with a nonantimicrobial soap or tap water alone.”
STRIKE 3 — Ignoring facts that don’t support your claim is wrong
Like I said, I’m a fan of the PCPC and believe that overall they do a great job. But when they get into the business of marketing one technology over another I think they’ve gone too far. And with this FightGermsNow websiter, they certainly strain their credibility as an unbiased, science-based organization.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.