The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently banned 19 chemicals commonly found in antibacterial soaps. Here’s the reasoning behind the FDA’s move.
They determined these ingredients have not been proven to be safe or provide any health benefits beyond that of soap and water.
At this time the ban is only for hand and bar soap, and does not include other toiletries, such as toothpaste, that may contain the same ingredients. The reasoning behind this decision is based on risk verses benefit. For example, the FDA determined that the use of some of these chemicals in toothpaste is permissible due to demonstrated ability to reduce plaque and gum disease. In addition, this new ruling will not apply to hand wipes and sanitizers containing the chemicals or antibacterial soaps used in health care settings (1). The FDA has requested that companies manufacturing antiseptic rubs, such as hand sanitizers, provide more information about their long term safety and effectiveness (2).
What does this all mean?
– Antibacterial hand washes and soaps may no longer be marketed. Companies are beginning to remove the banned ingredients from their products.
– There is no scientific proof that antibacterial hand washes are any more effective at reducing the spread of germs than plain ol’ soap and water.
– There is some evidence that the banned ingredients may be harmful for our health. For example, triclosan in high doses has been linked to decreases in some thyroid hormones. There is also some evidence that this ingredient may promote bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics (3).
What are the banned ingredients anyway?
You may wish to check any of your household toiletries and soaps for the 19 ingredients banned for use in soap by the FDA (4):
- Iodophors (Iodine-containing ingredients)
- Iodine complex (ammonium ether sulfate and polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate)
- Iodine complex (phosphate ester of alkylaryloxy polyethylene glycol)
- Nonylphenoxypoly (ethyleneoxy) ethanoliodine
- Poloxamer—iodine complex
- Povidone-iodine 5 to 10 percent
- Undecoylium chloride iodine complex
- Methylbenzethonium chloride
- Phenol (greater than 1.5 percent)
- Phenol (less than 1.5 percent)
- Secondary amyltricresols
- Sodium oxychlorosene
- Triple dye
What are some natural alternatives to antibacterial soap?
It seems that a simple wash with soap and hot water will do the germ-busting trick, but if you are looking for alternatives there may be some antibacterial boosters you can add to your wash (5).
- Essential oils with naturally antibacterial properties (such as lavender).
- Vinegar (you may wish to dilute with extra water to avoid the strong odor).
- Lemon juice (when diluted, lemon juice may be used as an astringent on the skin).
Photo Credit: Arlington County via Flickr.com.