FDA cracks down on hand soaps

FDA cracks down on hand soaps

The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on antibacterial hand soap.

The FDA on Friday announced a ban on 19 ingredients that are found in the “vast majority” of antibacterial hand soaps. Manufactures will have one year to either remove the ingredients or stop selling the products. The ban does not apply to hand sanitizers.

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“The vast majority of antibacterial hand soaps contain at least one of these ingredients,” said Theresa Michele, who runs the nonprescription drug products division at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

The agency said more studies need to be done to determine the health effects of the banned antibacterial ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarban. 

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

“In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term," she added.

The FDA estimates that antibacterial products make up about 40 percent of the hand soaps on the market.

The Environmental Working Group hailed the ban a victory, saying it is about time the manufacturers stop "adding this sketchy, endocrine-disrupting germ killer to all kinds of soaps and even to toothpaste."

While questioning the effectiveness of antibacterial soaps, the FDA stressed the importance of people washing their hands.

“Washing hands with plain soap and water is one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and spreading diseases," Michele said.

- Updated at 12:39 p.m.