Are Antibacterial Hand Soaps and Body Washes Safe?
If you’re like most consumers, you use antibacterial hand soap or body wash because you think it will reduce your risk of getting sick or passing on germs to others. But according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that’s not necessarily true. In fact, “there currently is no evidence that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water”, says Colleen Rogers, Ph.D., a lead microbiologist at FDA.
Moreover, antibacterial products that contain triclosan or triclocarban carry unnecessary risks, especially since their benefits are unproven. “New data suggest that the risks associated with the long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits,” Rogers says. “There are indications these soaps may contribute to bacterial resistance of antibiotics, and may also have unanticipated hormonal effects.”
A rule proposed on December 16, 2013 will require manufacturers to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to determine if these products are more effective than plain soap and water in preventing the spread of disease and that the benefits are worth the risks associated with their use?
See FDA “Taking Closer Look at Antibacterial Soap” for more information
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate the use of triclosan and triclocarban. The EPA regulates the use of triclosan/triclocarban as a pesticide and the FDA regulates the use of triclosan/triclocarban in hand soaps and body washes. Both agencies are currently evaluating the use of triclosan/triclocarban both as a pesticide and an antibacterial agent. The two agencies will measure the exposure and effects of triclosan/triclocarban and how these uses affect human health.
The FDA is emphasizing that frequent hand washing with plain soap and warm water is one of the most important steps people can take to avoid getting sick and prevent spreading germs to others.
We welcome your comments and questions.
Are alcohol antibacterial products OK?
Although alcohol products do not carry the risks associated with triclosan, they may not be any more effective than plain soap and water. All leave in products must be questioned. A wet wipe containing alcohol is preferred to a leave in product.