Is antibacterial soap dangerous? The FDA has recently launched an investigation into this product most of us have in our homes. They’re wondering if antibacterial soap benefits our health, if it’s worth the cost, or if it might even be dangerous.
The FDA announced Monday that they’re requiring manufacturers of antibacterial soaps to prove within the year that their products are not only safe, but also more effective than standard soap at preventing the spread of germs.
Given the number of little pump bottles spread around the typical American household, you’d think this would be a question that was settled decades ago, but apparently not.
Antibacterial Soaps: Medicine or Marketing?
The two most common ingredients in antibacterial soaps have recently come under scrutiny. Experts want to know whether they do us any good, or if they may in fact do harm. Said the FDA in a statement:
“Millions of Americans use antibacterial hand soap and body wash products… there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. Further, some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products—for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps)—could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.”
Soaps marketed as “antibacterial,” “antimicrobial” and “deodorant” often contain the triclosan and triclocarban ingredients.
Until now, those products fell into the FDA’s “generally recognized as safe and effective” (GRASE) category. But the FDA’s scrutiny this coming year may lead to those products losing GRASE status.
If manufacturers can’t come up with solid data backing up their safe-and-effective claims, they’ll have to either reformulate their soaps or change labels and stop marketing them as antibacterial.
Health Experts Concerned About Overuse
The FDA is not requiring hand sanitizers, antibacterial wipes, or other agents used in medical settings to prove they’re safe and efficient. The current investigation only concerns soaps and body washes.
The concern centers around potential overuse of these soaps. Most consumers use antibacterial soaps at home, at work, school… and while it’s one thing to have a bottle of germ-killing soap in the kitchen to wash off the raw chicken residue, bathing in antimicrobial body wash may be a few steps too far.
Experts at the FDA want to know if it’s worth it. Time will tell how the soap manufacturers fare.
Product Labels are Marketing, Not Medical Advice
This FDA crackdown is a reminder that what’s written on a product’s front label is marketing, not a doctor’s recommendation. The real medical details, if there are any, are usually in fine print, on the back of the bottle. GRASE products enjoy the privilege of being able to claim health benefits on front labels.
But in the case of antibacterial soaps, seems manufacturers are going to have show some solid evidence or consider a new marketing strategy.
Have you found products labels dishonest or misleading? Let us Know.