Many families across America use antibacterial soaps and body washes every day in an effort to protect themselves against germs.  However, they might be doing themselves more harm than good.

The federal government recently announced that it has no evidence that antibacterial chemicals used in liquid soaps and washes help prevent the spread of germs.  In fact, it is reviewing research that suggests these chemicals may actually pose health risks.

Regulators at the FDA are reanalyzing the safety of chemicals like triclosan in light of recent studies that show such substances can interfere with hormone levels and lead to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.  This endeavor comes more than 40 years after the agency was first asked to evaluate triclosan, triclocarban and similar ingredients, which are found in an estimated 75 percent of antibacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold in the United States.

The government’s initial ruling lends new support to outside researchers who have long claimed that the chemicals in antibacterial substances are ineffective and possibly even a threat to public health.

A new FDA-proposed rule would require manufacturers to prove that the antibacterial soaps and body washes they produce are safe and more effective than plain soap and water.  Products not shown to be safe and effective by late 2016 would have to be reformulated, relabeled or removed from the market.

The American Cleaning Institute, which represents the cleaning product industry, said that it has provided the FDA with data showing antibacterial products are safe and more effective than soap and water.

About The Author

Aneri Pattani is a Blast correspondent and journalism student at Northeastern University

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