Everyday soap will do

Yes! The FDA has banned anti-bacterial soaps.

Antibacterial soaps were banned from the US market on Friday in a final ruling by the Food and Drug Administration, which said that manufacturers had failed to prove the cleansers were safe or more effective than normal products.

Dr Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s center for evaluation and research, said that certain antimicrobial soaps may not actually serve any health benefits at all.

“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,” she said in a statement. “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long term.”

Let me guess – they may do more harm over the long term for the same reason overuse of antibiotics does: the bacteria evolve to withstand the soaps, so then they’re that much harder to get rid of.

The FDA first proposed a rule about the chemicals in 2013, following research that they might affect human hormones or change natural resistance to bacteria. The agency requested research from the producers to back up their health claims, but in the three years since has found that data lacking or their requests ignored.

Triclosan has been proven effective at killing bacteria if used at sustained length – far longer than the few seconds most people spend washing their hands – and was once only found in healthcare settings.

Recent studies have linked triclosan to a series of disruptions in human and animal health. A University of Chicago study released in July found that triclosan changed the microbiome inside human guts, and its researchers suggested that exposure could damage developing fetuses. A study from earlier this year found that overuse could also be contributing to antibiotic resistance, and a 2015 studyfound that antibacterial formulas were not more effective than soap and water.

So if they’re not more effective, it’s a really bad idea to use then when they could be contributing to antibiotic resistance, eh?

Professor Patrick McNamara, who has published research on antimicrobial soaps, called the ruling “logical” because research shows “there is no added benefit to having these antimicrobial chemicals in soaps”.

He added that triclosan could play a part in driving antibiotic resistance, saying, “after these chemicals are used in our homes they go down the drain to wastewater treatment plants and eventually to the environment where they can select for antibiotic resistance genes”.

“In short, triclosan and triclocarbon present a risk towards propagation of antibiotic resistance,” he said. “Since they do not offer added benefits when washing hands, their use is not worth their environmental risk.”

Thank you FDA.

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