November 11, 2016  Jun-Hee (Emily) Han

Antibacterial Soaps: Do They Pose Threats?

Recently, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that antibacterial soaps can cause harm. Despite the preconceived notion that antibacterial soaps are more effective in killing bacteria, a new proposal was claimed: certain ingredients in antibacterial soaps can lead to hormonal changes and resistance to bacteria.


These ingredients, such as triclosan and triclocarban, possess potential dangers to the human body, especially if used often and for a long period of time. Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical and an endocrine disruptor; that is, it interferes with the body’s hormones which can then cause a series of problems to the brain, the immune system, and the reproductive system. Furthermore, triclocarban can cause antibiotic resistance in bacteria, meaning people can get sick through infections, and in severe cases, can result in death.

Such high risks, coupled with the lack of evidence that antibacterial soaps are indeed more effective at killing bacteria, demonstrates the need to ban the specific 19 chemicals that present danger. Although given time, companies could not formulate a strong enough evidence to illustrate its higher efficiency compared to the regular soap and water. Thus, the FDA has officially proclaimed the need to prevent further productions of the chemicals present in most antibacterial soaps. However, this does not mean that companies will stop manufacturing antibacterial soaps altogether; instead, they have one year to dispose of the harmful ingredients. Otherwise, companies will be forced to stop selling their products.


Additionally, the FDA has postponed its ruling about three other ingredients: benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol. Again, intensive research and scrutiny will show if these three chemicals are as harmful as triclosan and triclocarban.


In the meantime, it is crucial that the public use regular soap and water to prevent infections and illnesses. As many say—the simple, the better.

 

©2020 by UCSD Medical Literature Society.

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