Personal Health

Anti-Bacterial Soap May Pose Health Risks

FDA announces there's no evidence that anti-bacterial chemicals are any more effective than plain soap and water. Worse, they may be harmful.

After four decades of evaluating the effectiveness of anti-bacterial soaps, scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week called upon the makers of antibacterial soap products to prove their products do not pose health risks, AP reported

The government’s announcement comes on the back of number of researchers who have long argued that the key ingredient chemical, Triclosan, is a threat to public health that can interference with hormone levels in lab animals and may thus be harmful to humans, prompting the FDA to review its safety.

"To put it simply, we need to collect additional information from the companies that make these products so that consumers can be confident about their effectiveness and about their safety," the FDA's Dr. Sandra Kweder told NBC.

Triclosan is found in products such as Dawn, Dial and other popular brands from CVS and Ajax.  Over the last 20 years, Triclosan has been added to thousands of household products, with more than 93 percent of antibacterial soap bars containing the chemical. 

However, that may all be about to change. Under a proposed rule, the FDA will require all manufacturers to prove that anti-bacterial soaps are more effective than plain soap and water by 2016 or the products will have to be reformulated and removed.

The move comes after concerns that Triclosan contributes to the emergence of drug-resistant germs or superbugs, which cause antibiotics to be ineffective, as well as claims that the hormone-altering chemical could lead to cancer.

Furthermore, in 2010, the European Union banned the chemical from all products that come into contact with food because of its toxic nature.

Nonetheless, soap-producing companies continue to refute such claims.

A spokesperson from American Cleaning Institute, which represents these companies, told AP that there are no such studies linking Triclosan to antibiotic resistance and that most cleaning companies are perplexed that the agency would suggest the contrary.

“Our industry sent the FDA in-depth data in 2008 showing that anti-bacterial soaps are more effective in killing germs when compared with non-anti-bacterial soaps,” spokesperson, Brian Sansoni said.

Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.


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