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FDA Bans Certain Ingredients in Antibacterial Soaps

People used soap and water to wash their hands for decades before new “antibacterial” hand soaps and other wash products were heavily marketed to consumers in the 1980s and ‘90s. These new products were advertised as more effective in killing germs and stopping the spread of illnesses from one person to the next. But with the term “antibacterial” came new chemical ingredients that consumers and researchers did not know enough about. Fast forward to present day, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially banned marketing over-the-counter antiseptic wash products with certain ingredients this September.

Certain Ingredients Not Proven to Be Safe

The FDA determined that 19 specific active ingredients in antibacterial soap products meant for consumers had not been proven to be safe for long-term daily use. The administration also found that companies had not shown these ingredients were any more effective than normal soap and water at preventing the spread of germs or sickness.

The 19 chemicals that can no longer be used in marketed products include:

  • Tribromsalan
  • Triclocarban
  • Triclosan
  • Triple dye
  • Cloflucarban
  • Fluorosalan
  • Hexachlorophene
  • Hexylresorcinol
  • Methylbenzethonium chloride
  • Phenol (greater than 1.5 percent)
  • Phenol (less than 1.5 percent)
  • Secondary amyltricresols
  • Sodium oxychlorosene
  • Iodine complex (ammonium ether sulfate and polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate)
  • Iodine complex (phosphate ester of alkylaryloxy polyethylene glycol)
  • Nonylphenoxypoly (ethyleneoxy) ethanoliodine
  • Poloxamer—iodine complex
  • Povidone-iodine 5 to 10 percent
  • Undecoylium chloride iodine complex

The FDA did not entirely ban the use of these chemicals. However, it did rule that companies can no longer market any OTC antibacterial products with these chemicals in them. This means businesses that own brands like Dial, Safeguard, Palmolive, Softsoap, Lysol, and others will no longer be able to advertise their antibacterial products for consumers until these ingredients are removed.

Potentially Dangerous Ingredients

While the FDA banned 19 ingredients, much attention is focused on triclosan. Some animal studies have shown triclosan to interrupt hormone systems, leading scientists to wonder if this chemical can do the same to people.

Triclosan and the other antibacterial ingredients also increase the concern for antibiotic-resistant germs, or “superbugs.” At least one study has shown that triclosan was associated with an increased risk of resistance and cross-resistance in staph infection or e. coli.

What Is Not Included in the Ban

The FDA’s ban only relates to OTC antibacterial hand and body wash products that are marketed to consumers. The rule does not alter the ingredients, marketing, or sale of gel hand sanitizers or wipes or antibacterial products made for and sold to health care facilities.

While hand sanitizers with these ingredients have not been banned, the FDA is looking into the safety and effectiveness of these products as well.

What Should Consumers Do?

Now that the FDA has banned antibacterial soaps with these products, you should return to using normal hand and body soap. If you are not sure which hand soap to purchase, you can look at the label to check if it contains any of the above ingredients.

However, if you believe a product with one or more of these ingredients or another OTC product led to an injury, you should contact an experienced defective product attorney at Oldham & Smith to learn more about your legal options. Contact or call Oldham & Smith at (352) 292-1620.

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