The Food and Drug Administration proposed a new rule today that would require manufacturers behind products like Cetaphil, Dial, and Softsoap to prove that antibacterial soaps are safe for long-term daily use, and that they more effectively prevent illness and the spread of infection than their non-antibacterial counterparts. Because right now, they probably don’t.
According to the FDA, there’s reason to believe that antibacterial soaps and body washes don’t work any better than regular soap — and could actually be harmful to users:
Although consumers generally view [antibacterial] products as effective tools to help prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. Further, some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products – for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) – could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.
Under the new rule, soap makers would have to provide clinical studies and other proof to the FDA showing the preventative-health advantages of antibacterial soap in order to keep marketing the products. The FDA notes in their statement that alcohol-based hand sanitizers remain a good alternative to soap and water. The FDA is inviting “consumers, clinicians, environmental groups, scientists, industry representatives and others” to weigh in on the rule during a comment period, which will last for more than 180 day. The rule should be finalized by 2016.