In Case You Missed It: The FDA Banned Chemicals in Antibacterial Soaps

Antibacterial soap is polluting our water and creating superbugs.

9. 7. 16 by Michelle Lee
Warongdech/Shutterstock
Image by Warongdech/Shutterstock

A Lack of Evidence

Some people swear by antibacterial soap. They won’t even consider washing their hands with just regular old soap and water.

In a recent FDA press release, Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research voiced her concern over this preference:

“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 a study, published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy in September 2015, researchers compared antibacterial soap with regular soap. The experiment exposed individuals to bacteria that weakens the immune system, and had them wash their hands with antibacterial soap and regular soap. The results were practically the same.

Just last week, the FDA banned 19 chemicals, including two widely used antibacterial agents, triclosan and triclocarban. One of the driving forces behind the ban was that these chemicals have been building up in lakes and streams.

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But our water isn’t the only thing being affected.

Not so Super

According to Allison Aiello, an epidemiologist from the University of North Carolina, there is “extensive literature suggesting that triclosan does not provide a benefit when used in a ‘real world’ setting compared to plain soap.”

In fact, this agent can actually disrupt the normal development of the reproductive system and metabolism in animals, and health experts warn that their effects could be the same in humans. Further, studies have found that triclosan can increase bacterial antibiotic resistance.

Essentially, there isn’t enough Triclosan in antibacterial soap to kill all of the germs on your hands each time you wash them. At these low concentrations, the chemical instead exerts selective pressure on bacteria, allowing them to quickly evolve, resulting in bacterial resistance and superbugs.

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In the end, everybody can rest easy. Even with the ban of antibacterial soap, we can still have clean hands.


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