HC Deb 25 January 1972 vol 829 cc372-3W
Dr. John Cunningham

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) when he expects a report from the Committee on Safety of Medicines about the use of hexachlorophane in preparations for child and baby care; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will publish a complete list of products used for child and baby care which contain hexachlorophane; and if he will make a statement;

(3) if he will take steps to have a warning to the public circulated about the possible harmful effects of baby care preparations containing hexachlorophane, pending a report by the Committee on Safety of Medicines;

(4) what consultations he is having with the companies marketing child care preparations containing hexachlorophane.

Sir K. Joseph

Hexachlorophane is a long-established antibacterial agent which is included in a wide range of medicines, cosmetics and disinfectants because it is less liable to induce skin irritation and sensitisation than some alternative compounds.

Whilst there is recent evidence from America that hexachlorophane can induce brain damage in animals there has been no evidence during the 22 years it has been available that it is harmful to man when used in accordance with the manufacturers' recommendations. The reports from America must however be accepted as providing circumstantial evidence of potential toxicity to man. This is so when hexachlorophane solutions are repeatedly applied to the whole surface of the body as when bathing infants. Although current evidence suggests that such use is best avoided there are occasions when the advantage of the agent's potent germicidal properties can outweigh the potential risk provided the skin is thoroughly rinsed after use. Officials of my Department have been engaged in discussion with representatives of manufacturers and have secured agreement that a prominent warning about the need for overall rinsing in such circumstances will appear on the instructions for use.

As yet I am advised that there is insufficient evidence to decide whether a similar risk is associated with the use of medicated talcs containing hexachlorophane. In the circumstances I do not think it right to take any further steps until I have received a report from the Committee on Safety of Medicines who are urgently considering the question of hexachlorophane and other medical antiseptic preparations.