Health & Fitness

Most hand soaps and body washes banned by the FDA

The U.S. government is banning more than a dozen chemicals, including triclosan, long-used in antibacterial soaps and washes, saying manufacturers have failed to show that they are safe and prevent the spread of germs.
The U.S. government is banning more than a dozen chemicals, including triclosan, long-used in antibacterial soaps and washes, saying manufacturers have failed to show that they are safe and prevent the spread of germs. File photo

Many of the hand soaps and body washes found in supermarkets and shops are being banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA says the products could contribute to bacterial resistance and don’t perform any better than plain soap and water. The ban applies to ingredients found in at least 40 percent of the overall soap market, according to a report from MedlinePlus, a project of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The ban covers soaps and body washes containing triclosan and triclocarban, the two most common antibacterial ingredients, the FDA says. Another 17 active ingredients also are included in the ban.

The ban covers soaps and body washes containing triclosan and triclocarban, the two most common antibacterial ingredients, the FDA says.

Most soaps labeled “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” contain at least one of those ingredients. Triclosan is most often included in liquid soap, while triclocarban is found in bar soaps. There are more than 2,100 antibacterial soaps sold today, according to the MedlinePlus report. But the new ban does not cover hand sanitizer gels or wipes, or antiseptics used in health care settings.

The FDA has said it’s banning the soaps because of concerns that antibacterial soaps might contribute to bacterial resistance. At least 2 million people per year become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 die from those infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MedlinePlus said other studies have also shown that the ingredient triclosan can affect the thyroid, estrogen and testosterone in mammals.

Meanwhile, manufacturers failed to show the antibacterial soaps performed any better than old fashioned soap and water.

Manufacturers have one year to comply with the ban. Many manufacturers, such as Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, already started phasing out some ingredients, the FDA told MedlinePlus.

Three other ingredients used in consumer wash products could also be banned. The FDA is giving manufacturers one more year to provide evidence that the three ingredients found in antibacterial soaps are more effective than regular soap and safe. Those ingredients include benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol.

Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn

  Comments