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Are Antibacterial Soaps Unsafe?

If you are like most Americans, you use antibacterial soap several times throughout the day to wash your hands, in the hopes of keeping yourself and others free from germs and illness. But do antibacterial soaps help prevent the spread of germs and illness? Or could they actually be doing more harm?

As CNN reports, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is hoping to find answers to that very issue. Under a proposed rule announced December 16, manufacturers of antibacterial hand soap and body wash will be required to prove that their products are more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of infection.

In a statement, the FDA said: "Millions of Americans use antibacterial hand soap and body wash products. Although consumers generally view these products as effective tools to help prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water."

Not only might antibacterial soaps not be any more effective at preventing illness than soap and water, but they might actually do more harm. As the FDA said in its statement, "some data suggest 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."

As CNN reports, studies in rats have shown a decrease in thyroid hormones following long-term exposure to the products that are in antibacterial soaps.

Before the FDA's proposed rule is finalized, companies will need to provide data to support their claims, and if they do not provide data to support their claims, the products will be required to be reformulated or relabeled in order to remain on the market.

The proposed rule is open for public comment for 180 days, with a concurrent one-year period for companies to submit new data and information, followed by a 60-day period for rebuttal comments. The FDA has a target deadline for public comment of June 2014, after which time companies will have until December 2014 to submit data and studies, with a goal of finalizing the rule and determining whether the products are "generally recognized as safe and effective" by September 2016.

Hand sanitizers, wipes, and antibacterial products used in medical settings are not affected by the FDA's proposed rule. Health experts say that hand sanitizers have 60% alcohol or ethanol and are generally recognized as safe when water isn't available, although health officials still suggest washing hands with soap and water as the best method for stopping the spread of germs.

At Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish, our Chicago injury lawyers are dedicated to keeping the public safe from dangerous products, including dangerous health care products, unsafe pharmaceuticals and defective medical devices. If you have been injured by a dangerous or defective product, contact the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible product liability.


Steinberg Goodman & Kalish  ( is dedicated to protecting victims and their families.  We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (800) 784-0150 or (312) 782-1386.


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