FDA Bans Triclosan and Other Antibacterials in Consumer Hand Soap

Manufacturers have not demonstrated the safety or efficacy of 19 antibacterial agents common in hand and body soaps, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

Sep 13, 2016
Ben Andrew Henry

FLICKR, ARLINGTON COUNTY

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given consumer soap manufacturers one year to remove 19 common antibacterial agents—including triclosan and triclocarban—from their products. The ban comes after manufacturers failed to present sufficient evidence to the agency that these antibacterial ingredients are safe for long-term daily use or substantially more effective than nonantibacterial soap in preventing illness, according to a press release.

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in the statement. “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

The FDA initially proposed the ban in 2013, in response to growing evidence that the antibacterial chemicals used in everyday products could pose health risks.

“It has boggled my mind why we were clinging to these compounds, and now that they are gone I feel liberated,” Rolf Halden of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University told The New York Times. “They had absolutely no benefit but we kept them buzzing around us everywhere. They are in breast milk, in urine, in blood, in babies just born, in dust, in water.”

The American Cleaning Institute, an industry organization, has opposed the FDA rule, arguing for the safety of antibacterial soaps.

Three additional ingredients common in cleaning products—benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol—are still up for review by the FDA, and manufacturers have one more year to submit data supporting their safety and effectiveness, according to the agency.