(N.Morgan) On Friday, the FDA washed its hands of Antibacterial soaps by banning them from US markets, claiming that manufacturers failed to prove were safe and more effective regular soaps.
The director of the FDA’s center for evaluation and research, Dr. Janet Woodcock stated,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 fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long term.”
Manufacturers had failed to prove 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 current 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 are still under an FDA investigation, or certain healthcare products meant specifically for clinical settings.
The FDA has given manufacturers one year to change the formula of their products or remove them from store shelves.
The FDA first proposed the rule about the chemicals in 2013, following research that they might affect human hormones or change natural resistance to bacteria.
The agency requested research and evidence from the producers to back up their health claims, but in the three years since has found that data lacking or their requests ignored.
The chemical 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.
However, 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.
According to the FDA Triclosan can be found in 93% of liquid soaps labeled “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial”.