FDA: Germ-Killing Soap May Be Bad for You

And there's no proof it's better than ordinary soap

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 16, 2013 11:13 AM CST

(Newser) – The antibacterial soap you've been using religiously? The FDA says there's no proof that it actually stops the spread of germs any better than ordinary soap and water do—and that the chemicals in it may even be bad for us. Some scientists have long warned that triclosan, triclocarban, and other active ingredients can mess with hormone levels, and the FDA today confirmed that some data indicated that persistent exposure to these chemicals could interfere with hormones or lead to bacterial resistance, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The upshot: The FDA has proposed a rule that would require manufacturers to prove that their antibacterial cleaners are safe for daily use and more effective than soap and water in preventing illness. If they can't, manufacturers will have to either reformulate or relabel their products. Not included under the proposed rule: antibacterial products that don't use water, like hand sanitizers, wipes, or antibacterial products used in a health care capacity. The FDA earlier this year announced it would complete its review in 2013, more than 40 years after Congress tasked the FDA with looking into triclosan. Click for more on the FDA's relationship with triclosan.

This Tuesday, April 30, 2013, photo, shows Dawn Ultra antibacterial soap in a kitchen Tuesday in Chicago.
This Tuesday, April 30, 2013, photo, shows Dawn Ultra antibacterial soap in a kitchen Tuesday in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
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