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.
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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid