US health watchdog cracks down on antibacterial soaps

17th of January 2014
US health watchdog cracks down on antibacterial soaps

The Food and Drug Administration has called for a safety review of soaps and body washes that contain antibacterial chemicals.

The US health regulator has warned that certain ingredients in such products could scramble hormone levels and boost drug-proof bacteria.

According to FDA microbiologist Colleen Rogers: "New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits."

The FDA claims that triclosan in liquid soaps and triclocarban in bar soaps may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Such products may also have "unanticipated hormonal effects that are of concern" according to an FDA statement. Recent studies of such chemicals on animals have shown they may alter hormones, though such results have not yet been proven in humans.

"Because so many consumers use them, the FDA believes that there should be clearly demonstrated benefits to balance any potential risks," the statement added.

The FDA has proposed a rule that requires manufacturers to prove antibacterial soaps to be both safe and more effective against infection than plain soap and water. The proposed rule will not apply to alcohol-based hand sanitisers used in healthcare settings.

If the FDA's proposed rule is finalised, companies would be required to provide data to support their product's health claims. If they cannot, the products would need to be reformulated or relabelled in order to remain on the market. Manufacturers have until the end of 2014 to submit the results of clinical trials on their products, and the new regulations will be finalised in 2016.


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