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FDA bans antibacterial soaps, says there’s no evidence they’re safe or effective

A September 7, 2009 photo illustration s

The FDA banned 19 active ingredients commonly found in antibacterial soaps on Friday – they say there’s no evidence they’re safe or effective.

Antibacterial soaps and body washes are on their way out; they aren’t any more effective at cleaning than plain soap and water and they might even be unsafe, the Federal Drug Administration announced Friday.

The FDA banned 19 active ingredients commonly found in antibacterial soaps – including triclosan and triclocarban – because they’ve been linked to antibiotic resistance and hormone disruption.

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

Producers will have one year to remove the ingredients from their products, the FDA said. The ban only applies to antibacterial soaps and body washes – not to hand sanitizes or hand wipes.

Antibacterial soap makers were asked to give the FDA data on the safety and effectiveness of ingredients in 2013. They did not provide the needed evidence to backup their use of the 19 ingredients.

“There’s no data demonstrating that these drugs provide additional protection from diseases and infections. Using these products might give people a false sense of security,” said Theresa Michele, a member of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products. “If you use these products because you think they protect you more than soap and water, that’s not correct.”

Hand washing is still and important practice to follow – even without antibacterial soap, the FDA said. It’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection and illness.

“We can’t advise this enough,” Michele said. “It’s simple, and it works.”