Approximately 75% of the anti-bacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold here in the U.S. contain triclosan, a germ-killing ingredient. The only problem is the FDA has no idea whether it actually works ” and there’s some evidence it may pose health risks.
Data suggests that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products — for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) — could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.
Some evidence suggests that there may be an association between triclosan exposure and allergies. There are also concerns that the widespread use of antibacterial soaps may contribute to antibiotic resistance. There are laboratory data showing that bacteria exposed to these products do change their resistance patterns. Thus, FDA wants to know more. In particular, manufacturers of antibacterial hand soap and body wash will be required to prove their products are more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of infection, under a proposed rule announced Monday by the Food and Drug Administration. Those manufacturers also will be required to prove their products are safe for long-term use, the agency said.
“Antibacterial soaps and body washes are used widely and frequently by consumers in everyday home, work, school and public settings, where the risk of infection is relatively low,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Due to consumers’ extensive exposure to the ingredients in antibacterial soaps, we believe there should be a clearly demonstrated benefit from using antibacterial soap to balance any potential risk.” The action is part of FDA’s ongoing review of antibacterial active ingredients, the agency said. Hand sanitizers, wipes and antibacterial products used in health care settings are not affected. Most hand sanitizers have 60 percent alcohol or ethanol and are generally recognized as safe when water isn’t available. However, health officials still believe washing hands with soap and water is the best method.