FDA: antibacterial soaps are ineffective

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Makers of widely-used antibacterial soaps now have a year to prove to the FDA that their products are safe.

The FDA is focusing on an active ingredient in the products called “triclosan.” Government researchers found the hand soaps, body washes and dishwashing detergent touted as “antibacterial” or “antiseptic” worked no better at killing germs than simple soap and water.

Diana Monaco, local spokesperson for the FDA, says their research shows no benefit to using antibacterial soaps and that they can be risky.

“In addition to not being better than soap and water, they are actually starting to see some effects, hormonal effects in animals, starting to see the disruption of the environmental flora,” she said.

Sales of antibacterial products have grown as health officials emphasize clean hands and good hygiene as a means of warding off disease.

While alcohol is the active ingredient in many antibacterial wipes and other products, triclosan has become the chemical of choice for hand soap, body wash, dishwashing detergent and toothpaste. But in toothpaste, Monaco says it is actually effective.

“We actually see that it actually helps with gingivitis and with plaque. So it is actually a positive thing in the toothpaste,” she said.

Monaco says the findings reinforce parental advice that has been passed down over the ages about washing your hands before you eat but the FDA is not ready to declare triclosan hazardous to your health.

She said, “Still it is not unsafe to use all these antibacterials, but it is still a recommendation that plain soap and water is better.”

The European Union banned triclosan from all products that come in contact with food back in 2010. The FDA is now proposing new rules for triclosan that would not include institutional use, such as hospitals.

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