The best way to wash your hands? Use plain soap and water, and skip the antibacterial soaps as they may be hazardous to your health.
That’s the word from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which last week issued a final rule establishing that over-the-counter consumer wash products containing certain active ingredients can no longer be marketed.
According to the FDA announcement, companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that they “are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections.”
This final rule applies to consumer antiseptic wash products containing one or more of 19 specific active ingredients, including the most commonly used ingredients – triclosan and triclocarban. These products are intended for use with water, and are rinsed off after use. This rule does not affect consumer hand “sanitizers” or wipes, or antibacterial products used in health care settings.
“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, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”
The agency issued a proposed rule in 2013 after some data suggested that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products — for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) — could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects. Under the proposed rule, manufacturers were required to provide the agency with additional data on the safety and effectiveness of certain ingredients used in over-the-counter consumer antibacterial washes if they wanted to continue marketing antibacterial products containing those ingredients. This included data from clinical studies demonstrating that these products were superior to non-antibacterial washes in preventing human illness or reducing infection.
Washing with plain soap and running water remains one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others. If soap and water are not available and a consumer uses hand sanitizer instead, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that it be an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Since the FDA’s proposed rulemaking in 2013, manufacturers already started phasing out the use of certain active ingredients in antibacterial washes, including triclosan and triclocarban. Manufacturers will have one year to comply with the rulemaking by removing products from the market or reformulating (removing antibacterial active ingredients) these products.
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