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Wash Your Hands of Triclosan! FDA Cautions against Antibacterial Soap

6 JAN 2014

On December 16, the FDA announced new safety measures it will impose on makers of antibacterial soaps. The agency seeks to limit human exposure to triclosan, the active ingredient in the soaps, until conclusive evidence is gathered regarding its health impacts on humans. This week, the AAPS blog examines the contours of the new measures and questions whether or not they will be effective in controlling the widespread use of the chemical, which is found in many household products.  The blog post, FDA Cautions against Antibacterial Soap, explains that

The FDA is giving purveyors of antibacterial washes, such as Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble Co., one year to clearly demonstrate their benefit to consumers.  If the companies have not produced data-based proof by 2016, they will have to either eliminate the antibacterial ingredients or remove labels that promise health benefits. Similar to drugs that must pass through several levels of pharmaceutical quality assurance, so must antibacterial washes be tested for their safety in order to remain on shelves.

It is unclear exactly how the FDA will monitor or evaluate the testing done by companies to determine the toxicity of triclosan. The new safety measures do not include parameters for testing, only that the companies who make the antibacterial soaps must demonstrate that they do indeed have health benefits, as written on product labels.  The European Union declared triclosan an eye and skin irritant and deemed it extremely harmful to aquatic life.  In addition, the chemical is classified as environmentally hazardous, capable of forming dioxins that bioaccumulate and are toxic. It remains to be seen what penalties the FDA will levy against companies who continue to use the chemical in their antibacterial washes.