We've all had overly cautious parents who ask us to Purell two-seconds after getting home from school. Recently the FDA announced a bold new position on antibacterial soaps and hand-sanitizers: 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 the products 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. Apart from soap, we’ve begun putting the chemical in wipes, hand gels, cutting 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 and 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 in 2013. 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.
Check back for our next post for a rundown of five reasons why you should go for good old fashioned soap and water instead of that antibacterial hand sanitizer.