It was announced on Friday that the US’ Food and Drug Administration (or FDA) is set to ban antibacterial soaps, as they believe the products are actually no more effective than soap and water, and may even have detrimental effects.
The FDA first announced their plans for the ban in 2013, and subsequently asked the products’ manufacturers to provide evidence to prove that their soaps are more effective than soap at killing germs. However, the agency has since said that companies either did not provide this data, or sent in data that was not convincing from a scientific point of view.
The ban will apply to any hand soap or antiseptic wash that contains one or more of 19 specific chemicals, including triclosan – a chemical commonly used in antibacterial handsoaps. Companies that sell products with these chemicals in will be given one year to either come up with an alternative solution or pull them from the shelves completely.
After years of testing, scientists found that so-called antibacterial soaps containing triclosan and the other chemicals actually have very little effect, and may even be harmful. Regular use of such products can help antibiotic resistant microbes and disrupt microbiomes.
Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) said in a statement: “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. In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”
Manufacturers behind these products have already begun phasing out the use of triclosan and other antimicrobial chemicals from their products. Meanwhile, the FDA suggests that consumers just use soap and water to wash their hands, saying it is “one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others.”
The ban does not apply to alcohol-based hand sanitizers, although they too are under investigation by the agency. It also does not affect the use of antiseptic products used in hospitals and other healthcare settings.