Many people choose soaps labeled “antibacterial” because they think these products prevent more infections than just plain soap. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on September 2, 2016 that there is no evidence that is true. And, these bug-killing substances can be harmful.
The FDA has banned soaps that contain 19 of the most common ingredients used in these products. The ban was announced after the FDA gave the companies 3 years to prove that these ingredients worked any better than soap and water in preventing the spread of infection, but they were not able to do so. In addition, there aren’t any studies showing that these ingredients are safe for long-term use. Since some of the ingredients affect hormones, they could be harmful.
So far, this rule only applies to soaps and body washes that you rinse off with water. The FDA is still collecting information to figure out how safe and effective hand sanitizers are at reducing bacteria on the skin.
Despite this new ban on antibacterial soaps, companies have a full year to start following it. That means that you could still buy these ineffective—and possibly dangerous—products through August 2017.
So how do you avoid these newly banned soaps? The good news is that some companies had already switched their soap formulas because they knew the ban was coming. As a good rule of thumb, skip any soaps or body washes that are labeled as “antibacterial” since they probably contain one of the banned ingredients. You can also check the label to see what the active ingredients are. Two of the most common to watch out for are triclosan and triclocarban. But remember, even if a soap ad or packaging says “triclosan-free” or “tribocarban-free,” it might still have one of the other 17 banned ingredients. The full list of all 19 are found at the bottom of this article.
Despite the fact that some of the most popular soaps in the U.S. are now banned, it is still true that washing your hands with plain soap and water is still one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of disease and infection. So make sure to keep washing those hands, but just skip the antibacterials while you do it!
Full list of the 19 banned chemicals:
- 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) 16
- Secondary amyltricresols
- Sodium oxychlorosene
- Triple dye
All articles are reviewed and approved by Dr. Diana Zuckerman and other senior staff.