FDA Pulls Many Antibacterial Soaps Off The Market: May Cause More Harm Than Good
December 16, 2016
As many people may know, the looming risk of antibiotic resistance has been popping up across the national news in recent months. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just pushed to remove several antibiotic/antimicrobial soaps from the market, saying that they do not actually kill germs and may in fact add to the danger of developing resistance to antibiotics and superbugs.
Back in 2013, the FDA conducted its first bout of questioning against the effectiveness and safety of antimicrobial soaps. Antimicrobial soaps are meant to kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms that can cause illnesses. The FDA began its line of questioning on soap manufacturers because it questioned whether or not antimicrobial soaps were more effective at killing germs than hand washing with soap and warm water. The FDA also wanted to insure that antimicrobial soaps were safe and not harmful to consumers. While the research did not find that the product was unsafe, there was not substantial evidence of the product being any more effective in its goal than regular hand soap.
Antimicrobial soaps claim to aid in the fight against common household illnesses, like a sore throat, stomach flu and the common cold. But these illnesses are caused by viruses, not bacteria, which is what antimicrobial soaps attempt to target.
Triclosan is the active ingredient in antimicrobial soaps. It is an antifungal and antibacterial compound. Triclosan was first added to antimicrobial and antibacterial soaps in the 1980’s, to allow consumers to feel extra protected against potentially harmful and dangerous household germs. In order for Triclosan to be effective in killing germs, however, it has to be in a high concentration. In antibacterial soaps the amount of Triclosan present is not enough to have the intended, marketed effect of wiping out germs. Because of the low amounts of Triclosan in the products, the reverse effect actually occurs. In the human body, the bacterium is able to adapt to the amount of Triclosan that it battles and then ends up becoming resistant to the compound. When bacterium becomes resistant, that resistance is passed down genetically through families, which contributes to the phenomena of superbugs: antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Because of the serious dangers this type of antibiotic resistance poses to people throughout the U.S., the FDA has implemented a ban that will begin in 2017. Triclosan, as well as 17 other chemical compounds that contain germ killing properties, will be disallowed from household, consumer products. The FDA reminds people that warm water and regular soap are effective in removing germs from the surface of the skin. The removal of germs from the skin’s surface does not allow for bacteria to become antibiotic resistant, instead it simply prohibits it from entering the body and contributing to an illness. While many soap manufacturers are disappointed with the impending FDA ban, scientists and researchers alike support it and believe that it will help diminish the likelihood of superbugs, therefore keeping people safe and healthy.
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