Are Antibacterial Soaps Causing More Harm Than Good?
It may be time to say goodbye to your antibacterial soaps and washes after this week's announcement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA’s media release, published on September 2nd, warned of the potential dangers of commonly used antibacterial soaps. The FDA issued a final rule establishing that over-the-counter antiseptic and antibacterial washes containing certain ingredients can no longer be sold.
There was a list of 19 ingredients that were deemed unsafe, however, the two main ingredients in the spotlight are triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) - the two most commonly used chemical agents.
Soap manufacturers will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with the identified ingredients as manufacturers have not been able to clearly demonstrate that the ingredients in these washes are safe for long-term daily use or are any more effective than plain ol’ soap and water in preventing the spread of germs and disease. In fact, manufacturers failed to prove that these chemicals are safe for any duration of use.
Fortunately, some soap manufactures have already started removing these chemicals from their products for precautionary measures. Soap manufacturers will have one year to remove the chemicals, which although it isn’t ideal, is a move in the right direction.
According to the FDA, triclosan is used in 93 percent of liquid products labeled as “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial”. It is estimated that this accounts for over 2,000 individual products in the U.S.
"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," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
In fact, it is speculated that antibacterial soaps may actually be causing more harm than good as bugs become resistant to the chemicals in these products. According to the report by the FDA, recent lab tests have proven that bacteria have become resistant to triclosan, and therefore its ongoing widespread use could, in fact, worsen the issue of antibiotic resistance.
Triclosan is having greater effects on the environment, too. As everything we wash down the drain eventually ends up in the ocean, lakes and streams, this is leading to contaminated waterways and having detrimental effects on animals and natural ecosystems. Tweet - As everything we wash down the drain eventually ends up in the ocean, lakes and streams, this is leading to contaminated waterways and having detrimental effects on animals and natural ecosystems.
These environmental hazards were what prompted Minnesota to become to first state to ban the ingredient in 2014.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thinks that it’s time to go back to basics. They have suggested that washing hands with plain soap and running water, and drying them thoroughly, still remains one of the most vital steps consumers can take to avoid the prevention of sickness and preventing the spread of germs to others.