Are Antibacterial Soaps Worth The Risk?

The FDA has recently released the results of a 40-year study on the use of anti-bacterial soaps and their ability to actually disinfect. The FDA has announced that they will require manufacturers to prove their claims that their disinfectant soaps work better than simply washing with regular soap and water, or take them off of the shelves by 2016. But why wait until then to make up your mind on these products?

In fact, there currently is no evidence that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water, says Colleen Rogers, Ph.D., a lead microbiologist at FDA. 1

Antibacterial soaps contain triclosan, tricolocarban or similar chemicals to “disinfect,” but recent studies have shown that these chemicals can actually promote the growth bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and might have hormonal side effects as well. 

"I suspect there are a lot of consumers who assume that by using an anti-bacterial soap product, they are protecting themselves from illness, protecting their families," said Sandra Kweder, deputy director in the FDA's drug center. "But we don't have any evidence that that is really the case over simple soap and water." 2

A few things to consider based on these findings:

  • There is no evidence that antibacterial soaps are more effective than regular soap and water
  • The use of antimicrobial soaps may promote the growth of bacterial resistance to antibiotics
  • These soaps may interfere with hormone regulation
  • The amount of triclosan that is being put into our sewage systems may have toxic effects on algae production in rivers. 3

1.) http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378393.htm

2.) http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fda-says-germ-killing-soap-could-pose-health-risks

3.) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166445X10003292

 

Posted on February 18, 2014 .