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Antibacterial soaps banned in US amid claims they do 'more harm than good'


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The Guardian  /  September 3, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration has washed its hands of the products, saying there is no scientific evidence that they are better than plain soap and water

Antibacterial soaps were banned from the US market on Friday in a final ruling by the Food and Drug Administration, which said that manufacturers had failed to prove the cleansers were safe or more effective than normal products.

Dr Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s center for evaluation and research, said that certain antimicrobial soaps may not actually serve any health benefits at all.

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” she said in a statement. “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long term.”

Manufacturers had failed to show either the safety of “long-term daily use” or that the products were “more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections”.

The new federal rule applies to any soap or antiseptic product that has one or more of 19 chemical compounds, including triclocarbon, which is often found in bar soaps, and triclosan, often in liquid soaps. It does not affect alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wipes, which the FDA is still investigating, or certain healthcare products meant specifically for clinical settings. The FDA has given manufacturers a year to change their products or pull them off shelves.

The FDA first proposed a rule about the chemicals in 2013, following research that they might affect human hormones or change natural resistance to bacteria. The agency requested research from the producers to back up their health claims, but in the three years since has found that data lacking or their requests ignored.

Triclosan has been proven effective at killing bacteria if used at sustained length – far longer than the few seconds most people spend washing their hands – and was once only found in healthcare settings.

Recent studies have linked triclosan to a series of disruptions in human and animal health. A University of Chicago study released in July found that triclosan changed the microbiome inside human guts, and its researchers suggested that exposure could damage developing fetuses. A study from earlier this year found that overuse could also be contributing to antibiotic resistance, and a 2015 study found that antibacterial formulas were not more effective than soap and water.

Triclosan can be found in 93% of liquid soaps labeled “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial”, according to the FDA, though some companies, including Proctor & Gamble, have already begun phasing the chemical out of products. There are partial triclosan bans in the European Union and Minnesota, but the chemical remains common in toothpaste, as it is believed effective against the bacteria that cause gum disease.

People should still keep their hands clean, the FDA noted. “Washing with plain soap and running water remains one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others,” the agency said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that if people need to use a hand sanitizer, it should have at least 60% alcohol.

Professor Patrick McNamara, who has published research on antimicrobial soaps, called the ruling “logical” because research shows “there is no added benefit to having these antimicrobial chemicals in soaps”.
He added that triclosan could play a part in driving antibiotic resistance, saying, “after these chemicals are used in our homes they go down the drain to wastewater treatment plants and eventually to the environment where they can select for antibiotic resistance genes”.

“In short, triclosan and triclocarbon present a risk towards propagation of antibiotic resistance,” he said. “Since they do not offer added benefits when washing hands, their use is not worth their environmental risk.

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Have been hearing that these products are ineffective for a couple years,but hadn't heard they could cause resistance to antibiotics we might need if we are Ill later! Makes sense not unlike the use of antibiotics in cattle,pork, and poultry!





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