19 chemicals in antibacterial soaps banned; no proof they work
WASHINGTON — The federal government Friday banned over a dozen chemicals long used in antibacterial soaps, saying manufacturers failed to show they are safe and kill germs.
“We have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, the Food and Drug Administration’s drug center director, said in a statement.
Friday’s decision primar- ily targets two once-ubiquitous ingredients — triclosan and triclocarban — that some limited research in animals suggests can interfere with hormone levels and spur drug-resistant bacteria.
The 19 banned chemicals have long been under scrutiny, and a cleaning industry spokesman said most companies have already removed them from their soaps and washes.
The FDA said it will allow companies more time to provide data on three additional chemicals, which are used in most antibacterial soaps sold today.
The agency told manufacturers nearly three years ago that they must show their products are safe and effective. Regulators said Friday that they either did not receive any data from industry supporting a chemical’s use or the data did not meet federal standards for proving safety and effectiveness.
The FDA ban comes over 40 years after Congress asked it to evaluate triclosan and dozens of other antiseptic ingredients. Ultimately, the government agreed to publish its findings only after a three-year legal battle with an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which accused the FDA of delaying a decision on triclosan’s safety.
The American Cleaning Institute, a cleaning chemical association, disputed the FDA’s findings, saying in a statement that “the FDA already has in its hands data that show the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps.”
The group’s spokesman said companies are planning to submit data on three chemicals currently used by industry: benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol. The FDA delayed making a decision on those chemicals for one year.
The FDA’s drug center director said there is no evidence that the banned chemicals “are any better than plain soap and water” at killing germs.