If you’ve been spending your hard-earned money on fancy antibacterial soaps in the hopes that they’ll keep you clean and healthy, you may want to stop.
The US Food and Drug Administration just released a new, exhaustive report and ruling that there’s actually no good evidence they perform any better than plain old soap and water when it comes to preventing illness or the spread of bacteria and viruses.
What’s more, the agency is banning companies from using 19 common "antibacterial" chemicals — such as triclosan and triclocarban — in products going forward. (You can see the full list of ingredients here.) Manufacturers have a year to reformulate products or remove ones with these chemicals from the market.
"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 a statement. "In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term."
Specifically, the agency said, there’s data from animal studies that suggests long-term exposure to chemicals like triclosan can interrupt hormone function in the body. As well, there are concerns that bacteria-fighting chemicals can increase the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These "superbugs," as they're known, have become a huge public health threat around the world, killing thousands of people every year, and, researchers expect, many millions more in the coming decades.
Though some manufacturers have already started phasing the banned chemicals out of their antibacterial washes, according to the Washington Post, the majority of 2,000 antibacterial products on the market contain at least one of the 19 new banned ingredients.
The FDA noted that the ban won’t apply to consumer hand "sanitizers" or wipes, as well as antibacterial products used in health care settings.
- You can read more the FDA’s new rule here and here.
- Everything you want to know about superbugs' antibacterial resistance
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- Big Tissue wants you to believe bathroom hand dryers spread disease. Here's what science says.