Antibacterial soaps can do more harm than good

Connecticut Better Business Bureau says the debate over the use of antibacterial soap at home has taken a new turn. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has told manufacturers that they must eliminate 19 common active ingredients from their products or pull them off store shelves.

Until now, the debate was centered on the risk of the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from exposure to common ingredients in antibacterials. The FDA has ended the debate by banning the principal ingredients of hand and body washes, which are tricoslan, triclocarban and 17 other chemicals.  

The ban affects at least 2,000 different products. According to the regulator, 93 percent of liquid "antibacterial" or "antimicrobial" products contain tricoslan.  

In a news release, the FDA states "Companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients, because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections."

This does not mean the age of consumer antibacterial products is over. Some manufacturers have already eliminated the prohibited chemicals and the rest have one year to reformulate their products.  

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.  

The FDA is also considering the fate of three other chemicals commonly used in consumer wash products, and is waiting for the submission of new safety and effectiveness data for these compounds.

Additional information may be found on the FDA website.