National Consumers League

Cleaning up antibacterial soap

92_ayannaBy Ayanna Johnson, Health Policy Associate Last week, FDA released a proposed ruling to require additional evidence that antibacterial soap is more effective at preventing illness or infection, than washing with plain soap and water. Consumers use antibacterial products daily in soaps, body washes, and other health care products.  FDA wants to ensure that with long-term exposure to the chemicals in antibacterial soap the benefits outweigh the risks.

New data suggests that certain ingredients in antibacterial soap, like triclosan, might contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics or have hormonal effects that are concerning to FDA. Bacterial resistance is a serious problem that impacts everyone. If certain bacteria become resistant to the medicines we use to treat them, public health and safety can be threatened. This all is a bit concerning since we use antibacterial or antimicrobial products frequently.

Working with the Environmental Protection Agency, FDA is requesting that manufacturers provide additional evidence from studies demonstrating the effects and risks of these products.  This proposed ruling only impacts consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes that are used with water; it does not affect hand sanitizers, hand wipes or antibacterial soap used in hospitals or other health care settings.

During this cold and flu season, it is important to wash your hands to keep you and your family safe from germs and illness. And plain soap and water works just fine. Remember when washing your hands to rub them together with soap and water for at least 10-15 seconds and rinse. If you don’t have soap or water around, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Here are some other commonly asked questions about antibacterial soap. As always if you have questions you should first talk to your health care provider. How do I know if my soap is “antibacterial?" If you are wondering if a product you use is antibacterial, check the drug facts label or the ingredients. Antibacterial soaps contain special chemicals used to prevent bacterial contamination, like triclosan. Triclosan is the chemical under question by the FDA. What is bacterial resistance? Doctors have noticed that some bacteria are getting tougher to kill. The usual antibiotic drugs don’t seem to work as well – or work at all. Such bacteria are said to be resistant.

Bacterial resistance makes an infection much harder to treat. Higher doses or stronger drugs may be required. In extreme cases, bacterial resistance can be fatal. Need More information. Visit the FDA And don’t forget, your health is in your CLEAN hands!