FDA Questions Safety of Antibacterial Soaps

    07 January, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    One of the best ways to avoid getting sick is washing your hands with soap and water. It has been shown effective in removing harmful germs and preventing their spread. Some companies have gone to great lengths to manufacture germ-killing products like antibacterial soaps.

    In the United States, a federal agency recently called on the makers of such soaps to prove they are more effective than traditional soap and water.

    FDA Questions Safety of Antibacterial Soaps
    (File) Federal health regulators are questioning the safety of germ-killing ingredients found in an estimated 75 percent of anti-bacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold in the U.S.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the widespread use of antibacterial soap may be partly to blame for an increase in rising rates of drug-resistant bacteria, some evidence has suggested the products may even be harmful to your health.

    The FDA has proposed that manufacturers be required to prove that antimicrobial soaps lower rates of disease more than other soaps. It would also require the companies to show how these cleansers do more good than harm.

    FDA officials estimate there are about 2,000 antimicrobial soaps on the market. People may think such products do a better job protecting them from getting sick, however, some studies suggest long-term use of the products can affect hormone levels and may be linked to cancer.

    The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has taken legal action against the FDA for letting companies use the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban in soaps.

    Mae Wu is a lawyer with the group. "I think it's a great first step!" But soap industry representatives say they do not understand the FDA proposal.

    In a statement, the Personal Care Products Council says it has already given in-depth data to the government. It says the information shows that antibacterial soaps are more effective in killing germs when compared with non-antibacterial soap. It also says the soaps do not add to resistance of antibiotic drugs.

    Sandra Kweder is the Deputy Director of the FDA. She says her agency's move is an attempt to learn the benefits of using antibacterial products and their possible risks.

    If the proposed rule is approved, soap manufacturers would have to carry out studies showing their products are safe and more effective than plain soap.

    If approved, Ms Kweder expects the rule would take effect in 2016.

    And that's the Health Report from VOA Learning English. I'm Milagros Ardin.