Antibacterial soap no better than washing your hands: FDA
The FDA said there is not enough proof that antibacterial ingredients are more effective than washing your hands with water and plain soap. (Subbotina Anna/shutterstock.com)
Published Friday, September 2, 2016 12:01PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 2, 2016 9:47PM EDT
You’re better off sticking with soap and water than using antibacterial washes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA issued a final rule Sept. 2 that bans companies from marketing soaps or washes as antibacterial if they contain any of some 19 common ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarban. The FDA said there is not enough proof that any of the ingredients are safe in the long-term or are effective enough to live up to the antibacterial claim.
“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,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in a statement. “In fact, some data suggest that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”
The FDA’s rule applies to antibacterial soaps and washes sold over the counter but excludes hand sanitizers, hand wipes and soaps used in hospitals.
The agency said manufactures are moving towards removing the ingredients from their products altogether.
Meanwhile, Health Canada has stood by its safety designation of triclosan -- at least for now. It says the chemical stops the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mildew is found in cosmetics, mouthwashes and soaps. A Health Canada review found the ingredient was not harmful to people at low concentrations but could damage the environment when used in large quantities.
“Health Canada is aware of the FDA’s recent announcement regarding certain active ingredients in antibacterial soaps,” the agency told CTV News in a statement Friday. “In Canada, these products require pre-market authorization prior to sale on the Canadian market. A pre-market authorization is issued only after a product has been deemed safe and effective for use. The government will continue to monitor new scientific evidence related to triclosan and will take further action if warranted.”
Health Canada added that “the final screening assessment report for triclosan under the Chemicals Management Plan will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part I in the near future.”
Environmental Defence has called for Ottawa to take action with an immediate ban on the antimicrobial ingredients.
“The Canadian government has to mirror the ban quickly to avoid Canada becoming a dumping ground for products containing these harmful ingredients. These chemicals continue to put the health and environment of Canadians at risk,” the organization said in a statement.
The FDA said more research is needed on triclosan. Animal studies have shown the chemical changes the way some hormones act, while lab studies suggest it could contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
The FDA ban comes more than 40 years after Congress asked the agency to evaluate triclosan and dozens of other antiseptic ingredients. Ultimately, the government agreed to publish its findings only after a three-year legal battle with an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defence Council, which accused the FDA of delaying a decision on the safety of triclosan.
The group cited research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found triclosan in the urine of three-quarters of Americans tested for various chemicals.
The rule doesn’t cover three chemicals: benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol. Companies have been asked to submit their proof of the effectiveness of these ingredients.
- with files from the Associated Press