Dear Germaphobes, Your Antibacterial Soap Might Be Completely Pointless

The FDA demands proof that anti-bacterial liquid soaps and body washes are not only safe, but have more germ-fighting power than regular soap and water.

So it sounds like we should just toss out all of our bottles of anti-bacterial soap— yes, even our favorite scented ones (love vanilla buttercream).

According to scientists at the Food and Drug Administration, there is zero evidence that the antibacterial soaps that sit next to the faucets in our kitchens and bathrooms prevent the spread of germs. In fact, they may even pose health risks.

The problem, they say, lies in the sanitizing agent called triclosan. Additional studies are required, yet recent studies have shown that this ingredient — which is in nearly 75 percent of all anti-bacterial liquid soaps and body washes and more than 93 percent of anti-bacterial bar soaps — may affect hormone levels in lab rats.

"The FDA is finally making a judgment call here and asking industry to show us that these products are better than soap and water, and the data don't substantiate that," said Stuart Levy of the Tufts University School of Medicine, as reported by the Associated Press and USA Today.

Yesterday the FDA released a proposed rule stating that all manufacturers must show proof of their products safety, as well as ability to more effectively sanitize compared to “plain” soap and water. If not, these products will need to be reformulated, relabeled or removed from the market by late 2016. The FDA estimates this shakeup will cost companies between $112.2 million and $368.8 million.

However, this proposed rule has nothing to do with hand sanitizers since many of these take-along products contain alcohol instead of anti-bacterial chemicals. (Good news for the ladies who won’t leave the house unless a bottle of this gel is clipped to their purse.)

Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussed this news last night on CNN’s AC360 and he felt “vindicated” by this ruling. He further explained that the potential harm could come from something called antibiotic resistance, which is “when you give too much of the antibiotics, try to kill too many of the bacteria, and these bad bacteria start to emerge.”

As for the hand sanitizers, Dr. Gupta stated that this product should contain at least 60 percent of alcohol in order to be effective.

While the jury is still out on the soap issue, it’s unsettling when something we’ve always thought was good turns out to be useless — and maybe even harmful. But as long as Bath and Body Works continue to make hand soap in my favorite food scents, everything will be just fine.

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