Most people think soaps and body washes that are labeled as antibacterial are safer to use and decrease their chances of getting infected with germs or sicknesses.  However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that there is no sound evidence to this day that supports the claim that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at germ spreading and illness prevention than any other soap and body wash products. Also, there is a concern that antibacterial products may not be as beneficial as once thought if used for prolonged periods of time.

In 2013 the FDA had meetings and conducted extensive research on the effectiveness and safety of antibacterial soaps. The ruling from this study requires manufacturers, consumers and others to provide feedback on whether these products should be continued. To date, not much data has been gathered concerning this issue. Now, the FDA proposes a final ruling that OTC cosmetic wash products (i.e., liquid, foam, bar soaps, gel hand soaps and body washes) that have Triclocarban and Triclosan as a primary active ingredient will be discontinued on the market.

The reason behind this ruling deals with the fact that manufacturers haven’t cooperated in proving these ingredients are safe for prolonged daily use. Also, the manufacturers demonstrated how these products prove to be any more effective or beneficial than plain soap and water in being antibacterial. There are some companies that are already taking triclocarban and triclosan out their products.

What Makes Soap ‘Antibacterial’

Antibacterial soaps (also known as antiseptic or antimicrobial soaps) contain certain chemicals that you won’t find in regular soap. These chemicals are supposed to reduce the spread of harmful bacteria and infections when people use these products.

Many scholars and environmentalists are concerned about the safety of several antibacterial liquid soap products that have triclosan. Animal studies suggests that triclosan changes the way the body’s hormones behave, which poses a concern about how this hormonal change may adversely affect humans. Because of limited research in this area, little is known about the extent of influence triclosan has on the human body.

Because of the lack of concrete evidence of the safety and efficacy of these products, manufacturers may be fostering false hope about the purpose of these products to ward off germs and illnesses.  If your choice in these antibacterial products is for the feel, then save your family potential harm by using similar and safer products that feel the same way and don’t have triclocarban and triclosan. If you are using these products for the antibacterial quality, there is no evidence to assure you that you are not wasting your time using them.  Because of these uncertainties, a few manufacturers have revised their products and eliminated antibacterial agents.

Triclosan and Health Concerns

Triclosan is also found in furniture, toys, clothes, and kitchen utensils with the purpose of preventing bacterial infections. Because of that, there is an even greater concern about human exposure to this chemical.

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When you’re buying soaps and body washes, do you reach for the bar or bottle labeled “antibacterial”? Are you thinking that these products, in addition to keeping you clean, will reduce your risk of getting sick or passing on germs to others?

Not necessarily, according to experts at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Every day, consumers use antibacterial soaps and body washes at home, work, school and in other public settings. Especially because so many consumers use them, FDA believes that there should be clearly demonstrated benefits to balance any potential risks.

In fact, there currently is no evidence that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water, says Colleen Rogers, Ph.D., a lead microbiologist at FDA.

Moreover, antibacterial soap products contain chemical ingredients, such as triclosan and triclocarban, which may carry unnecessary risks given that their benefits are unproven.

“New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits,” Rogers says. There are indications that certain ingredients in these soaps may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and may have unanticipated hormonal effects that are of concern to FDA.

In light of these data, the agency issued a proposed rule on Dec. 16, 2013 that would require manufacturers to provide more substantial data to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps. The proposed rule covers only those consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes that are used with water. It does not apply to hand sanitizers, hand wipes or antibacterial soaps that are used in health care settings such as hospitals.

According to Rogers, the laboratory tests that have historically been used to evaluate the effectiveness of antibacterial soaps do not directly test the effect of a product on infection rates. That would change with FDA’s current proposal, which would require studies that directly test the ability of an antibacterial soap to provide a clinical benefit over washing with non-antibacterial soap, Rogers says.

What Makes a Soap “Antibacterial?”

Antibacterial soaps (sometimes called antimicrobial or antiseptic soaps) contain certain chemical ingredients that plain soaps do not. These ingredients are added to many consumer products in an effort to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination.

A large number of liquid soaps labeled “antibacterial” contain triclosan, an ingredient of concern to many environmental and industry groups. Animal studies have shown that triclosan may alter the way hormones work in the body. While data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans, these studies are of concern to FDA as well, and warrant further investigation to better understand how they might affect humans.

In addition, laboratory studies have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Such resistance can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of medical treatments.

Moreover, recent data suggest that exposure to these active ingredients is higher than previously thought, raising concerns about the potential risks associated with their use regularly and over time.