Is Antibacterial Soap Effective, Safe? FDA Not Convinced

Antibacterial Soap May Be Ineffective, Unsafe

Antibacterial soaps may not offer any advantage over other types of soap, claims the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Not only do these soaps seem ineffective at killing bacteria, but they may be unsafe to use.

The FDA is currently considering new regulations that would need antibacterial soap makers to prove their product is safe and works as intended. Right now, says the FDA, there is little proof that these types of soaps are either. Ingredients added to supposedly combat bacteria, like triclosan and triclocarban, would need laboratory evidence to convince the FDA to allow it into the market.

The new proposal is likely to spark controversy and protest from soap manufacturers. However, the FDA says if the rules go into place, soap makers will have one year to give acceptable proof of safety and effectiveness. The agency is also asking for public comment over the next 180 days.

What kind of health concerns does the FDA have over antibacterial soap? As the agency explained in a public statement, some data suggests that bacteria-fighting ingredients could create problems after long-term use. They say there is concern over possible “hormonal effects” as well as building dangerous bacterial resistance. According to the FDA, animal studies have shown that triclosan could “alter the way hormones work in the body.” Bacterial resistance could also be a problem, as the soaps may aid strains in becoming resistant to other antibacterial treatments.

Companies that cannot prove the safe use of their antibacterial soaps could be forced to take their product off store shelves. However, it is also possible the rule will be tweaked to allow companies to keep their soaps in-store even if they fail to provide acceptable proof to the FDA. Instead, they may be required to post special labels on their products.

Other products, like hand sanitizers and wipes, or antibacterial items used by doctors and hospitals will not be included in the new rule.

The proposal to regulate antibacterial soap by the FDA follows a push to control and reduce the use of antibiotics to treat livestock in the US.

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