Drop the antibacterial soaps – The FDA is recommending it.
The Association has announced a ban on 19 ingredients in antibiotic soaps currently on the market (1).
The ban won’t affect antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizers. It also won’t affect products used in hospitals and food service settings.
Companies have until September 6th of next year to phase out these ingredients from their products and pull existing soaps from the market.
Some companies have already begun phasing out these ingredients as well as replacing them with other chemicals, including benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride or chloroxylenol (PCMX).
These ingredients have been far less studied than the newly banned ingredients, so the FDA has given soap makers another year to provide more data on their safety and effectiveness.
The ban comes after the Natural Resources Defense Council asked the FDA to ban these ingredients due to the overwhelming evidence that the products are no more effective than regular soap-and-water in preventing illness and infections (4).
Mae Wu, a senior attorney at the council, says that the request came after overwhelming evidence found that triclosan, triclocarban, and other commonly used antibacterial ingredients have the ability to disrupt hormone cycles and cause muscle weakness (5).
Newly banned chemicals include:
- Iodine complex (ammonium ether sulfate and polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate)
- Iodine complex (phosphate ester of alkylaryloxy polyethylene glycol)
- Nonylphenoxypoly (ethyleneoxy) ethanoliodine
- Poloxamer-iodine complex
- Povidone-iodine 5 to 10 percent
- Undecoylium chloride iodine complex
- Methylbenzethonium chloride
- Phenol (greater than 1.5 percent)
- Phenol (less than 1.5 percent) 16
- Secondary amyltricresols
- Sodium oxychlorosene
- Triple dy
Triclosan, which is found in liquid soaps and mouthwash, isn’t just contributing to antibiotic resistance, it’s also been found in human breast milk and dolphin’s blood. It’s even contaminated freshwater streams.
Theresa Michele, FDA’s director of the division of nonprescription drug products, told the Washington Post that the ban will affect more than 2000 products on the market.
If you’re not sure if any of the products in your home contain these unsafe ingredients, just read the label: “If the product makes antibacterial claims, chances are pretty good that it contains one of these ingredients,” she says.
As expected, the companies that produce the now-banned soaps are fighting the ruling. The American Cleaning Institute, an industry group that represents makers of cleaning products, said in a statement following the ban: “The FDA already has in its hands data that shows the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps…Manufacturers are continuing their work to provide even more science and research to fill data gaps identified by FDA.”
However, the FDA hasn’t issued the ban lightly. The Journal Clinical Infectious Diseases published a study in 2007 which reviewed 27 studies on the benefits and hazards of antibacterial soaps which concluded that “Further studies of this issue are encouraged.”(6).
“This whole issue of antibiotics, where they do good and they don’t do good, has not been explained well enough to the public, but I think it can be now,” said Dr. Stuart Levy, professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine, co-author of the 2007 paper and lead figure in some of the earliest studies on antibiotic resistance. “We sort of led the cause to eliminate the use of triclosan in washes, because quite honestly, it didn’t show any improvement.”
It remains to be seen if the agency will crack down on health hazards like hand sanitizers and antibacterial wipes, but they have begun cracking down on the use of antibiotics in animals raised for meat.
The FDA said in a press release that consumers who wish to prevent the spread of germs can simply wash their hands with soap and water. The CDC also recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol during periods of illness or low immune function (7).