FDA Finally Solving The Burning Question Of Whether Antibacterial Soap Is Safe

You put it on your hands, wipe your utensils with it before they touch your food, slather it all over your body and generally dunk yourself in it throughout your life — but is antibacterial soap safe? Or rather, is its resident germ-killer, triclosan, ineffective or even not good for you? The Food and Drug Administration is working on an answer.

We’ve been using triclosan in its various forms for more than 40 years, notes the Associated Press, but health regulators are planning now to review once and for all whether it’s safe. The outcome will dictate whether or not we keep using it in household cleaners, liquid soaps, body wash and more.

The FDA is rolling out the review after pressure from legislators, consumer advocates and anyone who’s ever worried about triclosan. Studies of the stuff in animals have led to concerns that it might increase the potential for hormone-related problems in humans.

“To me it looks like the risks outweigh any benefit associated with these products right now,” said a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. “At this point, it’s just looking like a superfluous chemical.”

Part of the bigger picture here? There are a whole lot of chemicals out there that we use everyday in our homes that haven’t actually been approved by U.S. health regulators in any real way. It’s all because those chemicals were developed we had laws governing the scientific review of cleaning ingredients.

Back in 1978, the FDA set out some initial rules for chemicals used in liquid hand soaps and washes. That draft said triclosan was “not generally recognized as safe and effective,” because regulators just didn’t have enough scientific research to back it up. The FDA kept publishing drafts of those guidelines, but never gotten around to finalizing the results. Because of that, companies have just kept triclosan in.

So it’s about time, to take a good, hard, long look, eh?

Before you toss out your soap and toothpastes, know that the FDA’s site doesn’t warn about any ill health effects, but does say right now that “the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.”

For more on how and where triclosan is used, check out the source link below.

Decades-old question: Is antibacterial soap safe? [Associated Press]