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FDA: Antibacterial Soaps Not Scientifically Proven to Prevent the Spread of Germs

Sep 05, 2016 04:09 AM EDT
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The U.S. Food and Drugs Administration has ordered companies and manufacturers of so-called antibacterial soaps to stop making their products commercially available. This is due to lack of scientific evidence proving their efficacy in preventing the spread of germs.

"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," said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), in a press release. "In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term."

Antibacterial soaps, also known as anti-microbial or antiseptic, are soaps with certain active ingredients that cannot be found in plain soaps. Companies and manufacturers claim that antibacterial soaps work better than regular soaps in preventing the transmission of bacterial diseases.

The FDA urged makers of antibacterial soaps to produce concrete scientific proof to back up their claims in 2013. However, manufacturers failed to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their antibacterial soaps during the long period of grace given by the FDA.

According to the final ruling of the FDA, antibacterial soaps containing 19 or more specific active ingredients will no longer be allowed in the market. These include most commonly used ingredients such as triclosan and triclocarban. Over-the-counter consumer wash products, including liquid, foam, gel hand soaps, body washes and bar soaps, are affected by the ruling. However, consumer hand sanitizers or wipes used in health care setting are not affected by the ruling.

The decision of the FDA to ban antibacterial soaps from the market is a bold move to prevent possible mutation of more aggressive drug-resistant bacteria. Furthermore, mouse models showed that long-term exposure to some of the active ingredients of antibacterial soaps could alter hormonal balance.

Hand washing remains to be the best way to prevent bacterial transmission. FDA noted that proper and regular washing of hands could be effective, even if it is done using plain soap.

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