FDA Examining Antibacterial Soap

Antibacterial soap safety reviewed by FDA due to antibiotic resistance concerns

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) While cold and flu season amps up, antibacterial soap can begin to pop up everywhere as a prevention method. But are these products really protecting people?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is reevaluating antibacterial soaps and has proposed new research requirements.

FDA warned that these soaps have not been proven more effective than plain soap and water, and might even be contributing to antibacterial resistance.

"Avoid touching your face, eyes or mouth when hands aren't clean."

In an article on the FDA website, released December 16, the FDA announced that it has proposed a new rule that would increase data requirements from the manufacturers of certain antibacterial products.

The rule would only apply to consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes used with water, and not to products like hand wipes, hand sanitizers or soaps used in hospitals.

The new rule would require manufacturers to provide more evidence showing the safety and effectiveness of their products, including their ability to prevent more infections than plain soap.

In the article, Colleen Rogers, PhD, an FDA microbiologist, explained that there is currently no evidence that these over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are more effective at preventing the spread of illness and germs than washing with traditional soap.

Dr. Rogers also noted that antibacterial soaps contain certain chemicals, like triclosan and triclocarban, whose potential risks for long-term, daily use might not outweigh their potential, but as-of-yet-unproven, benefits.

"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," FDA reported.

For example, triclosan is currently being evaluated by both FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to FDA, the chemical has been shown to alter hormones in animal studies, and laboratory studies have hinted that triclosan may add to the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

"Such resistance can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of medical treatments," noted FDA.

While antibacterial soaps are being re-evaluated, FDA stressed that hand-washing is a crucial step in avoiding getting sick and spreading germs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agreed with the importance of hand washing.

"Hand washing is like a 'do-it-yourself' vaccine," explained CDC. "It involves five simple and effective steps (think Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy."

Review Date: 
December 17, 2013
Last Updated:
December 31, 2013