If you’ve ever stood in the soap and detergent aisle attempting to discern the benefits between “antibacterial” soap and other options missing the magic word, you are not alone.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) researchers have been doing the same thing and have found there is no clear difference- other than the fact that antibacterial soaps could introduce unnecessary chemicals and cause side effects with long-term use.
This week the (FDA) announced that they are pushing forward with a proposed regulation that would require personal product makers to prove that antibacterial soaps and body washes used with water are more efficient in eliminating bacteria than regular soap and water.
The rule change would require that companies prove there are no negative effects on the human body with long-term use.
“Washing with antibacterial soaps has not proven to be more effective than washing with plain soap and water,” said Andrea Fischer, an FDA spokesperson.
“The agency continues to recommend that consumers wash with plain soap and water to help avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs.”
Fischer told the AFRO that products claiming to have antibacterial effects are considered drugs by the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. If a change in regulations is approved, antibacterial soap companies will have to either prove their added benefits, or remove the antibacterial claim from labeling and remove the active antibacterial ingredients, in order to stay on the market.
Two of these ingredients include triclosan and triclocarban. According to information released by the FDA, long-term usage of products containing antibacterial ingredients “may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics.”
The FDA is working in conjunction with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a larger study of the effects of human exposure to triclosan, which the EPA regulates as a pesticide.
“Published reports have suggested that the active ingredients used in these antibacterial products may have a broad range of hormonal effects in animals, including effects on estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid hormones,” said Fischer.
Members of the public have roughly six months to make comment on the proposed rule while manufacturers submit data. This period will be followed by a 60-day rebuttal comment period.
According to the Centers for Disease Control plain soap and water is considered a “do-it-yourself vaccine.”
Proper hand washing decreases the general population’s risk of catching colds and other respiratory conditions by 21 percent of colds. Hand washing also removes salmonella and E. coli O157 from the hands that frequently touch the eyes, nose, and mouth.
When water is not available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol can be used as a substitute.