Girardi | Keese

FDA Bans Antibacterial Hand Soap in Effort to Rid Marketplace of 19 Different Chemicals


Sabrina Tavernise with the New York Times reports that the FDA has banned the sale of many antibacterial soaps, in a rule that goes back to 2013, when the federal agency first introduced it. Tavernise quotes scientist Rolf Halden, who works for Arizona State University: "It has boggled my mind why we were clinging to these compounds, and now that they are gone I feel liberated."

Well, they're not quite gone yet. At least when it comes to the chemicals. 

Only consumer soaps are banned.

As Tavernise writes, the FDA gave companies one year to get rid of the chemicals in those products, and as of today, those products (should they contain the chemicals) cannot be sold in stores.

What's left over?

After antibacterial soaps disappear from the shelves of retail stores like Target and Wal-Mart - those that contain one or more of 19 different banned chemicals - there will certainly be other products that continue to be sold, such as some toothpastes, in which the benefits apparently outweigh the risks, at least according to the FDA.

What is the problem with these chemicals?

"Experts," Tavernise writes, "have pushed the agency to regulate antimicrobial chemicals, warning that they risk scrambling hormones in children and promoting drug-resistant infections." The ASU scientist is quoted as saying that these chemicals have had zero benefits - and may interfere with the reproductive system and metabolism.

Antibacterial soaps aren't the only products with these chemicals.

As if the news wasn't bad enough - though it's good that the FDA has taken action - there are an array of products beyond toothpaste that continue, or did at one time, contain these chemicals, including:

  • Mouthwash
  • Laundry detergent
  • Some types of fabrics
  • Pacifiers

It is prudent to study labels and make informed decisions.

As with any consumer product, your best bet is to know what you're getting into, be it a certain make/model of vehicle or the antibacterial soap on the shelf at Target.

Companies owe consumers an obligation to put safe products into the marketplace, but they do fail to meet this obligation on a regular basis.

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