Noooo! Antibacterial Soap Is No Better than Regular Soap in Germ War, FDA Says

And it may cause some serious health problems.



So I just learned that even though I’ve been drying out my hands with antibacterial soap for years now, it’s been doing absolutely nothing for me, as far as germ-killing goes. According to a new report from the FDA, the chemicals in antibacterial soap aren’t any better at eliminating germs than plan ol’ soap and water.

Oh, and there’s more bad news. Listen to this, from a consumer release issued today by the FDA:

Antibacterial soap products contain chemical ingredients, such as triclosan and triclocarban, which may carry unnecessary risks given that their benefits are unproven.

“New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits,” says [Colleen Rogers, Ph.D., a lead microbiologist at FDA]. There are indications that certain ingredients in these soaps may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and may have unanticipated hormonal effects that are of concern to FDA.

Gah! And here’s more about the health risks:

A large number of liquid soaps labeled “antibacterial” contain triclosan, an ingredient of concern to many environmental and industry groups. Animal studies have shown that triclosan may alter the way hormones work in the body. While data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans, these studies are of concern to FDA as well, and warrant further investigation to better understand how they might affect humans.

Scary, right? The federal agency has proposed a rule that would compel manufacturers of antibacterial soap to produce cold, hard data showing that their products are both effective and safe. It would apply to antibacterial products that work with water (soap, body washes) and not to those that work without it (hand sanitizer gel, wipes). The feds are also calling for studies to look at whether these products do anything at all to stop the spread of infection, something that previous research hasn’t specifically examined.

Read more about the sticky new report over on the FDA’s site.