Frequent and thorough hand washing is still the best way to ward off germs and to prevent the spread of infections. There is no need to buy antibacterial soaps; regular bar or liquid soap will do the job just fine. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned antibacterial soap products containing certain chemicals.
What makes soap antibacterial?
Antibacterial soaps, also called antimicrobial or antiseptic soaps, contain different ingredients than plain soap. Antibacterial soaps contain one or more of 19 specific active ingredients with the most common ingredients being triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps). These products will have ‘antibacterial’ on the label.
Why the ban?
The FDA asked manufacturers to research and provide evidence that antibacterial soap ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarban, were safe for daily use over a long period of time. The manufacturers failed to prove their safety. Animal studies on triclosan show that this ingredient alters the way some hormones work in the body and raises concerns on its effect on humans. There is also concern that this ingredient contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. There is not enough research to know how triclocarban affects humans.
The FDA’s new rule applies to all consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes that are used with water. Manufacturers have one year to comply with the FDA’s new rule.
The ban does not include hand sanitizers, hand wipes or antibacterial soaps used in health care settings. The FDA says “Health care antiseptics are being evaluated separately from consumer antiseptics because they have different proposed use settings and target populations, and the risks for infection in the different settings varies.” More scientific research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of certain over the counter hand sanitizers.