If you use antibacterial soaps or body washes, it may be time to clean
out your bathroom cabinet or soap dispenser. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
recently enacted a ban on many of these products, totaling about 40 percent
of the U.S. antibacterial soap market.
"There are a couple of reasons for the change," says
Michael Rosedale, DO, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Joseph Health Medical Group. "First, these products were not proven to be more effective than
using soap and water. Also, there was some concern over potential health
issues. For instance, antibacterial soaps with certain active ingredients
actually may make you more resistant to antibiotics, which is a growing
concern in America--about 2 million people each year come down with antibiotic-resistant
bacterial infections, resulting in at least 23,000 deaths, according to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
The FDA's new rule gives companies one year to remove products from
store shelves or reformulate them without any active ingredients that
fall within the ban. (Because the rule has been in the works since 2013,
some companies have already acted to comply with it.) Here's what
the FDA ban does--and doesn't--cover.
Antibacterial washes and soaps that are meant to be used with water and
contain one or more of the 19 active ingredients. "Of these ingredients,
triclosan and triclocarban are the two most commonly used," Dr. Rosedale
says. "If you have an antibacterial soap, check the label--if you
see any of these 19 chemicals listed as one of the active ingredients,
stop using the product."
- Iodine complex (ammonium ether sulfate and polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate)
- Iodine complex (phosphate ester of alkylaryloxy polyethylene glycol)
- Nonylphenoxypoly (ethyleneoxy) ethanoliodine
- Poloxamer—iodine complex
- Povidone-iodine 5 to 10 percent
- Undecoylium chloride iodine complex
- Methylbenzethonium chloride
- Phenol (greater than 1.5 percent)
- Phenol (less than 1.5 percent)
- Secondary amyltricresols
- Sodium oxychlorosene
- Triple dye
- Hand sanitizing gels and wipes that are at least 60 percent alcohol. "These
don't contain the active ingredients that are part of the ban,"
Dr. Rosedale says. "Because they don't need to be used with water,
these products can serve as a backup for cleaning your hands when you
don't have access to soap and water."
- Medical antiseptics used by doctors and in hospitals.
- Antibacterial soaps containing benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride
and chloroxylenol. "These active ingredients are still being reviewed
for their safety and effectiveness," Dr. Rosedale says.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.