U.S. Bans Common Chemicals in Antibacterial Soaps

From Scientific American:

“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 Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) in a statement. “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

When it hit the market in the 1960s, triclosan was intended for use in hospitals. But consumer demand for antibacterial soap surged due to increased marketing and media reports on dangerous infections. So manufacturers started making such soaps available to the public and added antibacterials to other products including toothpaste, mouthwash, toys, clothing and more. It was not long until concerns about the safety and efficacy of the triclosan-based soaps arose, however, and as soon as the FDA began regulating over-the-counter drugs in the mid-1970s, it proposed banning triclosan. Yet the ruling was never finalized and the decision fell by the wayside. It was not until 2010 that the FDA—after the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council sued it over the long delay—imposed a series of deadlines to determine the safety of antibacterial consumer soaps, hand sanitizers and health care soaps.

So what has four decades of research determined? Most studies have focused on triclosan, and as far as human health is concerned the research into its toxic effects has produced mixed results. For nearly every study that shows triclosan has some particular effect, another shows it does not. Yet one thing is clear: Several clinical studies, following several hundred households, have shown that triclosan-based soap does not prevent illness any better than regular soap and water alone.

There is also significant evidence that triclosan might worsen the problem of antibiotic …

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