Consumers really don't need to use antibacterial soaps. In fact, using them could even be dangerous, according to the FDA.
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Just this afternoon, the FDA issued a ban on 19 chemicals that are popularly used in body washes and soaps that are marketed as being more effective than traditional soap. Any company that uses these products has a year to remove either the ingredients or the entire product.
"If the product makes antibacterial claims, chances are pretty good that it contains one of these ingredients," Theresa Michele, director of the FDA's Division of Nonprescription Drug Products, said.
The ban will only apply to consumer products; hospital and food service settings will not be changed, according to NPR.
Luckily for most companies, they have already started phasing out the ingredients after the FDA made another ruling in 2013 that required companies to provide more data on the safety and effectiveness of the products.
Not for all companies. Dial's "All Day Freshness" Soap still has triclocarban as an active ingredient.
Many companies have replaced triclosan with other chemicals like benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride or chloroxylenol. They have another year to provide data about the effectiveness and safety of these ingredients.
The reason triclocarban and some of the other chemicals were studied is because they can cause muscle weakness, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, who asked the FDA for the ban.
"There's no data demonstrating that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water," the agency said in a press release this afternoon.
Still, the soap industry doesn't believe that. "Washing the hands with an antiseptic soap can help reduce the risk of infection beyond that provided by washing with non-antibacterial soap and water," said Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute.
The FDA reasons that the data submitted by the companies wasn't sufficient: "For these ingredients, either no additional data were submitted or the data and information that were submitted were not sufficient for the agency to find that these ingredients are Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective."
Here is a list of the newly banned chemicals:
- Iodine complex (ammonium ether sulfate and polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate)
- Iodine complex (phosphate ester of alkylaryloxy polyethylene glycol)
- Nonylphenoxypoly (ethyleneoxy) ethanoliodine
- Poloxamer-iodine complex
- Povidone-iodine 5 to 10 percent
- Undecoylium chloride iodine complex
- Methylbenzethonium chloride
- Phenol (greater than 1.5 percent)
- Phenol (less than 1.5 percent) 16
- Secondary amyltricresols
- Sodium oxychlorosene
- Triple dye