An FDA ruling cast doubt on whether there is any reason to use antibacterial soap over the standard stuff. PHOTO: Arz, CC License
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a surprise ruling today: antibacterial soap probably adds no benefit and is harmful. Antibacterial soaps are essentially normal soap plus a germ killing agent such as triclosan. What’s the problem with that? The problem is two pronged:
Prong 1: The FDA’s research has shown that there is no added benefit to antibacterial soaps over normal soap and water.
Prong 2: Antibacterial active ingredients like triclosan have been shown to foster drug-resistant germs and mess with the hormone levels of people using them.
For some, the FDA ruling is long overdue:
"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 Tufts University School of Medicine.
A couple of points to make here: the next time you hear someone go on a screed about how government regulators just make everything suck more, think about antibacterial soap. Would a free and open market have generated research on the non-benefits of antibacterial soap? Maybe a normal soap maker would have funded it, but most soap-making companies make both, and regardless, if both sides have a profit motive, it’s hard to know who to believe.
Second point: our collective use of antibiotics is causing a major issue with drug resistant germs. This goes way beyond just soap (American cows eat more antibiotics than American humans), but not using antibacterial soap is a simple way to make a difference.