There is a buzz going around that the FDA bans antibacterial soap. Well, it’s true, sort of! The FDA has banned 19 chemicals used in antibacterial soaps but the ban only applies to consumer products. So what is this FDA antibacterial soap ban and why is it being put into effect? Well, I am happy to have Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams, M.D. to tell you all about this FDA ban on antibacterial soap. Dr. Abrams is known for her award winning Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine Clinic and she is the author of four books. Her newest book BodyWise will be published in December 2016 by Rodale Press. You can learn more about it and find where it is available for pre-order here.
Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams On Why The FDA Bans Antibacterial Soap
We feel good about ourselves when we wash our hands regularly, and teach our children to do the same. Washing our hands regularly prevents the spread of bacteria, viruses and parasites. So it comes as an unpleasant surprise that anti-bacterial soaps, formulated to help us, may be endangering our health and the health of our children.
FDA Bans Antibacterial Soap
In early September, 2016, the FDA banned 19 anti-bacterial ingredients from consumer products, primarily liquid hand soaps and bars. The most commonly used anti-bacterials in soaps, and even in toothpaste, are triclosan and triclocarban. The FDA has stated that there is no proof that these anti-bacterials are safe for regular, ongoing use by consumers. And it’s very clear that they are not more effective, for the average person, than washing with plain old soap and water. The ban does not apply to the healthcare industry, where, for obvious reasons, the risk of passing infections by hand is greater. Nor does it apply to the food industry. And these ingredients have not been banned from hand sanitizing gels—yet.
Why The FDA Bans Antibacterial Soap
So besides the obvious issue that these anti-bacterials are no better than soap and water for most of us, why is the FDA concerned about their use? Research in animals has shown that these chemicals can disrupt normal hormonal activity, such as in the reproductive system, metabolism, and thyroid signaling—vital aspects of our health and wellness. These chemicals were developed for use by surgeons, but are a part of 50% of the liquid hand soaps on the market, as well as mouthwash, laundry detergent, deodorant, toothpaste, fabrics, school supplies and baby pacifiers. Potentially putting our youngest and most vulnerable at risk. The chemicals accumulate in ground water and the soil, and have been found in 97% of breast milk in one study.
In addition, anti-bacterials contribute the creation of anti-biotic resistance among bacteria that infect humans, putting all of us at risk of “super-bugs”—bacteria resistant to our current forms of antibiotics. Concern about this caused the FDA in 2013 to begin banning antibiotic use to fatten livestock or prevent their infections, which currently accounts for 70-80% of the antibiotics used in the U.S. “Super-bugs” are expected to kill 10 million people a year by 2050, a daunting prospect, which is why health advocates world-wide are beginning to take action against unnecessary antibiotic use.
A number of natural product companies have never used these products in the first place, and even large companies, like Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble, pledged to remove these from their products years ago. So how can you keep yourself and your family safe?
- Look for triclosan or triclocarban in any “anti-bacterial” products you buy, and don’t purchase them. By this time next year, all consumer soaps should be free of these agents. Be particularly cautious with hand sanitizers, and prefer soap and water instead.
- Wash your hands with soap! It’s still important to prevent the spread of disease and is very effective at removing or killing bacteria, viruses and parasites.
- Begin to look for and avoid these anti-microbials in other products that may still contain them, (sometimes under the trade name Microban), such as deodorants, lotions, toothpaste, lipsticks, socks, towels, cutting boards, sports equipment, pencils, binders, and even scissors.
- Remember that when choosing products for yourself and your family, simple is almost always better. If you recognize the ingredients and your grandmother may have used them, you are probably safe. Many newer chemicals, even if they are tested, can begin to show negative effects when in used in the marketplace. It’s always better to stick with ingredients that have stood the test of time, like soap for our hands or baking soda and vinegar for household cleaning.
If you follow these guidelines, you can keep yourself, and your family, safe and healthy, even as we enter the cold and flu season.
I hope you find Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, tips useful for keeping your family healthy and well. Were you aware of the new FDA Bans on Antibacterial Soap? Do you have any questions on why the FDA bans antibacterial soap for consumers?