FDA bans antibacterial ingredients from soap

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ST. GEORGE — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday banned the use of certain antibacterial chemicals in hand and body wash products.

There isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

“There’s no data demonstrating that these drugs provide additional protection from diseases and infections. Using these products might give people a false sense of security,” said Dr. Theresa M. Michele of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products. “If you use these products because you think they protect you more than soap and water, that’s not correct.”

To date, the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap haven’t been proven. In addition, the wide use of these products over a long time has raised the question of potential negative effects on health.

The products of concern contain one or more of 19 specific active ingredients named by the FDA, including the most commonly used ingredients – triclosan and triclocarban.

Laboratory studies have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics, the agency said. Some data shows this resistance may have a significant impact on the effectiveness of medical treatments, such as antibiotics.

After studying the issue, in 2013 the FDA issued a proposed rule requiring safety and efficacy data from manufacturers, consumers and others if they wanted to continue marketing antibacterial products containing those ingredients.

“Antibacterial hand and body wash manufacturers did not provide the necessary data to establish safety and effectiveness for the 19 active ingredients addressed in this final rulemaking,” the FDA said in a statement issued Friday.

That’s why the FDA is issuing a final rule under which over-the-counter consumer antiseptic wash products – including liquid, foam, gel hand soaps, bar soaps and body washes – containing the majority of the antibacterial active ingredients will no longer be able to be marketed.

Manufacturers will have one year to comply with the rule.

The FDA’s final rule covers only consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes that are used with water. It does not apply to hand sanitizers or hand wipes. It also does not apply to antibacterial soaps that are used in health care settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Consumers should wash their hands with plain soap and water, the FDA said, adding that it’s still one of the most important steps to take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs.

“Following simple handwashing practices is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness at home, at school and elsewhere,” Michele said. “We can’t advise this enough. It’s simple, and it works.”

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