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Antibacterial Soaps Under Fire from the FDA


Antibacterial soaps have been under fire for several years now. The safety and efficacy of these products have never been proven. At the same time, some of the ingredients may pose health risks and add to the growing concern of bacterial resistance.

Back in 2013, the FDA entered the fray. They stated that manufacturers would have to provide proof on safety and efficacy of specific ingredients if they wanted to continue marketing their antibacterial products.

However, very little information has been provided. In fact, the manufacturers still haven’t proven the ingredients are safe for daily use, let alone extended periods of time. They have also offered no proof that antibacterial soaps are more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water.

One of the ingredients targeted, triclosan, may alter the way some hormones work in the body. This raises concerns over how it affects the human body over the long-term. Additionally, it may contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

Thus, the FDA issued a final ruling banning triclosan and 18 other antibacterial ingredients from being marketed. This includes liquid, foam, gel hand soaps, bar soaps and body washes containing these antibacterial agents.

“Following simple handwashing practices is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness at home, at school and elsewhere,” says Theresa M. Michele, MD, of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products. “We can’t advise this enough. It’s simple, and it works.”

“If you use these products because you think they protect you more than soap and water, that’s not correct. If you use them because of how they feel, there are many other products that have similar formulations but won’t expose your family to unnecessary chemicals,” notes Michele.

Manufacturers have one year to comply with the ban. After that, they will no longer be available.

However, you will still be able to find some antibacterial products on the market. That’s because there are three chemicals that don’t fall under the FDA’s ruling. These include benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol.

Additionally, the ruling does not apply to hand sanitizers.

SOURCE: Antibacterial Soap? You Can Skip It — Use Plain Soap and Water. Consumer Update. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sept 2016.


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