News / USA

FDA Questions Safety of Antibacterial Soaps

(File) Federal health regulators are questioning the safety of germ-killing ingredients found in an estimated 75 percent of anti-bacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold in the U.S.
(File) Federal health regulators are questioning the safety of germ-killing ingredients found in an estimated 75 percent of anti-bacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold in the U.S.
TEXT SIZE - +
U.S. regulators are calling on the makers of antimicrobial soaps to prove their products are more effective than plain soap and water.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the widespread use of these products may be contributing to rising rates of drug-resistant bacteria, and some evidence suggests they may even be harmful to your health.

The agency has issued a proposal that would require manufacturers to demonstrate that antimicrobial soaps lower rates of illness more than plain soap, and that the benefits outweigh potential risks.  

There are about 2,000 antimicrobial soaps on the market today, according to the FDA.

Consumers may believe these products do a better job protecting them from getting sick, “but we don’t have any evidence that that is really the case, over simple soap and water,” said FDA Deputy Director Sandra Kweder.

Some test tube and animal studies suggest long-term exposure to the active ingredients in antimicrobial soaps can affect hormone levels and may be linked to cancer, but Kweder says these are preliminary.

“The challenge is to try and understand what those actually mean for effects on humans,” she said.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental group that has sued the FDA over triclosan and triclocarban in soaps, welcomed the move.

“This is a good first step toward getting unsafe triclosan off the market,” says Mae Wu, an attorney with the NRDC. “FDA is finally taking concerns about triclosan seriously.”

Soap industry representatives say they are “perplexed” by the announcement.

In a statement, the Personal Care Products Council says it has given that FDA “in-depth data showing that antibacterial soaps are more effective in killing germs when compared with non-antibacterial soap.”

And the statement cites evidence that antimicrobial soaps do not contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Kweder says the FDA’s move is “all part of the general equation of, what are the benefits of using antibacterial products and how do they stack up against any potential risks.”

Last week, the FDA said the use of antibiotics to help healthy livestock grow better is contributing to rising drug resistance and asked drug makers to place tighter limits on their use.  

If the proposed rule is approved, soap manufacturers would have to conduct clinical studies showing their products are safe and more effective than plain soap.

Kweder stressed the FDA is not discouraging hand-washing.

“Washing with plain soap and water is one of the most important steps people can take to avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others,” she said.

The rule would not apply to alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels and wipes that do not require water.

The FDA is asking for comments on the proposal over the next six months. If approved, Kweder expects the rule would go into effect in September of 2016.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid