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Five Reasons Why You Should Probably Stop Using Antibacterial Soap

Posted by Anonymous
  • 8 Replies

As the FDA recently noted, antibacterial products are no more effective than soap and water, and could be dangerous

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As the FDA recently noted, antibacterial products are no more effective than soap and water, and could be dangerous

few weeks ago, the FDA announced a bold new position on antibacterial soap: Manufacturers have to show that it's both safe and more effective than simply washing with conventional soap and water, or they have to take it off the shelves in the next few years.

About 75 percent of liquid antibacterial soaps and 30 percent of bars use a chemical called triclosan as an active ingredient. The drug, which was originally used strictly in hospital settings, was adopted by manufacturers of soaps and other home products during the 1990s, eventually ballooning into an industry that's worth an estimated $1 billion. Apart from soap, we've begun putting the chemical in wipes, hand gelscutting boards, mattress pads and all sorts of home items as we try our best to eradicate any trace of bacteria from our environment.

But triclosan's use in home over-the-counter products was never fully evaluated by the FDA—incredibly, the agency was ordered to produce a set of guidelines for the use of triclosan in home products way back in 1972, but only published its final draft on December 16 of last year. Their report, the product of decades of research, notes that the costs of antibacterial soaps likely outweigh the benefits, and forces manufacturers to prove otherwise.

Bottom line: Manufacturers have until 2016 to do so, or pull their products from the shelves. But we're here to tell you that you probably shouldn't wait that long to stop using antibacterial soaps. Here's our rundown of five reasons why that's the case:

1. Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than conventional soap and water. As mentioned in the announcement, 42 years of FDA research—along with countless independent studies—have produced no evidence that triclosan provides any health benefits as compared to old-fashioned soap.

"I suspect there are a lot of consumers who assume that by using an antibacterial soap product, they are protecting themselves from illness, protecting their families," Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the FDA's drug center, told the AP. "But we don't have any evidence that that is really the case over simple soap and water."

Manufacturers say they do have evidence of triclosan's superior efficacy, but the disagreement stems from the use of different sorts of testing methods. Tests that strictly measure the number of bacteria on a person's hands after use do show that soaps with triclosan kill slightly more bacteria than conventional ones.

But the FDA wants data that show that this translates into an actual clinical benefit, such as reduced infection rates. So far, analyses of the health benefits don't show any evidence that triclosan can reduce the transmission of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections. This might be due to the fact that antibacterial soaps specifically target bacteria, but not the viruses that cause the majority of seasonal colds and flus.

2. Antibacterial soaps have the potential to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The reason that the FDA is making manufacturers prove these products' efficacy is because of a range of possible health risks associated with triclosan, and bacterial resistance is first on the list.

Heavy use of antibiotics can cause resistance, which results from a small subset of a bacteria population with a random mutation that allows it to survive exposure to the chemical. If that chemical is used frequently enough, it'll kill other bacteria, but allow this resistant subset to proliferate. If this happens on a broad enough scale, it can essentially render that chemical useless against the strain of bacteria.

This is currently a huge problem in medicine—the World Health Organization calls it a "threat to global health security." Some bacteria species (most notably, MRSA) have even acquired resistance to several different drugs, complicating efforts to control and treat infections as they spread. Health officials say that further research is needed before we can say that triclosan is fueling resistance, but several studies have hinted at the possibility.

Posted by Anonymous on Mar. 22, 2014 at 3:01 AM
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Replies (1-8):
by Gold Member on Mar. 22, 2014 at 3:02 AM

I will not stop using it. 

by Anonymous 2 on Mar. 22, 2014 at 3:02 AM
by Gold Member on Mar. 22, 2014 at 3:12 AM
I don't use antibacterial soaps so I'm not worrying about it. My skin is sensitive that I can only use gentle cleansers
by CAFE SASSY HBIC on Mar. 22, 2014 at 3:14 AM

I have antibacterial and regular soap.......Soap is soap to me

by Platinum Member on Mar. 22, 2014 at 3:14 AM
I dont use any antibacterial products
by Anonymous 1 - Original Poster on Mar. 22, 2014 at 3:14 AM


Quoting theresaphilly:

I will not stop using it. 


Triclosan, one of the most prevalent antibacterial compounds found in products, is the focus of a campaign undertaken by a coalition of health and environmental groups led by Beyond Pesticides and Food & Water Watch, aimed at removing triclosan from the market. Over the last few years, as a direct result of pressure from consumer groups and the media regarding the need for triclosan in consumer products and the mounting scientific evidence documenting adverse health effects, including impacts to the thyroid hormone, major manufacturers have quietly reformulated their products without triclosan.

Studies have increasingly linked triclosan (and its chemical cousin triclocarban), to a range of adverse health and environmental effects from skin irritation, endocrine disruption, bacterial and compounded antibiotic resistance, to the contamination of water and its negative impact on fragile aquatic ecosystems.

When introduced to the market in 1972, triclosan was confined to hospital and health care settings. Since then triclosan exploded onto the market place in hundreds of consumer products ranging from antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics, toys, and other household and personal care products. Triclosan’s success on the consumer market has been aided by the false public perception that antibacterial products are best to protect and safeguard against potential harmful bacteria. However, an article in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, entitled "Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky?" (2007), concludes that antibacterial soaps show no health benefits over plain soaps. In 2010, FDA stated that, “Existing data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to [triclosan]” and announced plans to address the use of triclosan in cosmetics or other products.

See a list of common products containing triclosan.

Recent Updates

  • FDA Will Require Manufacturers to Prove Safety and Efficacy of Antibacterial Products; Beyond Pesticdes' Press Release
    December 2013 - A new rule proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will now require manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps, body washes, and other consumer goods to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and more effective than regular bar soap in order to remain on the market. This announcement, though long delayed, represents a positive step towards reining in the unnecessary use of antibacterial chemicals.FDA’s new rule, announced Monday, will be open for public comment for 180 days and manufacturers will have one year to submit new data on their products. FDA hopes to finalize its rule and determine whether antibacterial products can be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by September 2016. Read FDA's Consumer Update.

  • Proctor & Gamble To Eliminate Triclosan From its Products by 2014
    September 2013- Multinational manufacturer Procter and Gamble (P&G) announced that it will eliminate the harmful antibacterial chemical triclosan from its products by 2014. P&G’s notice is the latest in a growing trend across the county, as both governments and private companies continue to move away from the use this dangerous and unnecessary substance. While P&G does not name the specific products from which it will be removing triclosan, it notes that the only remaining uses of triclosan are in the company’s antibacterial dish soap, professional hand soap, and some other personal care products (brands like Dawn and Safeguard Antibacterial Soaps).
  • Minnesota State Agencies to Stop Procurement of Triclosan
    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced on March 3, 2013 that state agencies have been ordered by Governor Mark Dayton to stop buying products that contain triclosan, a synthetic, broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent that has become ubiquitous in consumer products ranging from face-washes to fabrics. This ban, which will go into effect in June, comes as the debate over the efficacy and necessity of triclosan intensifies in the Minnesota State legislature. A bill banning triclosan’s use outside of medical settings is expected to be introduced, and the legislature conducted a hearing Tuesday on the possible human health and environmental consequences of the chemical.
  • It is time once again to tell EPA to remove this dangerous chemical from the market.
    In March 2013, EPA opened the federal docket for triclosan, offically beginning the registration review of triclosan. Under pressure after its 2008 review, EPA announced that it would again review triclosan in 2013, five years earlier than scheduled. Over the last few years, as a direct result of pressure from consumer groups and the media regarding the need for triclosan in consumer products and the mounting scientific evidence documenting adverse health effects, including impacts to the thyroid hormone, major manufacturers have begun to quietly reformulate their products without triclosan.
  • Johnson & Johnson to Phase Out Triclosan. Health care and cosmetics giant Johnson and Johnson has announced that it will soon begin phasing out a number of potentially dangerous chemicals from its personal care brands, including triclosan. The company cites consumer concern over the safety of triclosan as among its reasons for the alteration in its products, hinting that it was uncomfortable with growing body of science linking triclosan to a number of health concerns. The phase out is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2015.
  • Canada Declares Triclsoan Toxic to the Environment. The Canadian government declared triclosan toxic to the environment, a move which would see the use of the chemical curtailed sharply in Canada. The draft risk assessment found triclosan to be toxic to the environment but did not find enough evidence to say it is hazardous to human health. A toxic designation under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act triggers a process to find ways to curtail a chemical’s use, including a possible ban in a range of personal-care products.
  • Video: Triclosan 101. Allison Aiello, PhD discusses the antibacterial ingredient triclosan, its efficacy, and potential health impacts as part of the Pesticides and Health Panel at "Healthy Communities: Green solutions for safe environments," Beyond Pesticides' 30th National Pesticide Forum, March 30-31, 2012, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

Issac Pessah at Beyond Pesticides 31st National Pesticide Forum. In 2012, researchers from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and the University of Colorado found that triclosan impairs muscle function in fish and mice and stated that the results they found show “strong evidence that triclosan could have effects on animal and human health at current levels of exposure.”  Issac Pessah, Ph.D., co-author of the muscle function study and chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences  at UC Davis spoke at Beyond Pesticides 31st National Pesticide Forum. His talk in its entirety can be viewed here.

  • From PRI: Triclosan Safety Questioned. Public Radio International's Living on Earth (download the show) recently interviewed Beyond Pesticides about the toxic antibacterial agent triclosan, which is found in many consumer products like toothpaste, countertops and children’s toys. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was also interviewed.


    by Platinum Member on Mar. 22, 2014 at 10:05 AM
    I avoid them at all costs. They are counter productive. We need to have some bacteria on our hands. I am all in favor of hand washing but they are many forms of beneficial bacteria.
    by Anonymous 3 on Mar. 22, 2014 at 10:08 AM
    I could probably find an article that says I shouldn't take a sh*t in my toilet. I just do what I do. These insane studies are annoying.
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