Manufacturers have marketed antibacterial soaps as superior to standard suds for decades, however new evidence suggests that antibacterial soaps may not prevent the spread of germs and might even pose health risks to consumers.
In response to these findings, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed a rule that will require soap manufacturers to prove that products with added antibacterial agents are safe and effective. Under the rule, soap makers have until September 2016 to supply the FDA with additional safety data before their antibacterial soap products can achieve the designation "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS).
The FDA's primary concern is the antibacterial agent triclosan, which is used in 93 percent of antibacterial products. Triclosan takes several hours to kill bacteria—a lot longer than the average time it takes to wash and dry hands. Animal studies show that the chemical may alter the way hormones work in the body, and laboratory studies suggest that it may make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Some consumer safety advocates have deemed triclosan a "harmful chemical."
The antibacterial products in question are not the hand sanitizers, soaps, and hand wipes found in medical seetings—the rule only pertains to hand soaps and body washes that consumers combine with water.