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Wow! The FDA Just Banned 19 Yucky Chemicals From Antibacterial Soaps

All hail good old fashioned, regular soap!

Little girl washing hands with soap Shutterstock
If you're like me—a germ-obsessed mom with kids who touch everything—you insist upon buying antibacterial soaps in an attempt to stave off germs your kids bring home from school, the playground, and well, all other places. But now, the Food and Drug Administration says antibacterial soaps basically don't work any better than plain, old regular soap, and the agency is now banning the use of "antiseptic wash products" containing one of more of 19 different chemical ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarbon.

Wait. What?

Well apparently, in 2013, the FDA gave manufacturers a year to prove antibacterial chemicals (yes, chemicals) in their products actually worked to kill germs. But soap manufacturers have been unable to prove the effectiveness of ingredients like triclosan and triclocarban, and as of the FDA's announcement this week, they must remove them from their products and labels within a year. Soap companies can also no longer claim their products provide extra protection against bacteria.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the FDA said in its ruling that they don't know if so-called antibacterial products are even safe for long-term daily use. Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said, "In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term." You may already be well-aware that the dangers of triclosan have long been called into question, although this chemical has not been proven to harm humans.

But that's really all moms like me need to hear to decide triclosan has no place in our home. Crosses "antibacterial soap" off grocery list.

As many as 2,000 products, including hand soaps and body washes, are affected by the FDA's announcement, according to NBC News. There is one exception, as the FDA noted further in its statement: "In response to comments submitted by industry, the FDA has deferred rulemaking for one year on three additional ingredients used in consumer wash products—benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol (PCMX)—to allow for the development and submission of new safety and effectiveness data for these ingredients. Consumer antibacterial washes containing these specific ingredients may be marketed during this time while data are being collected."

Hand Hygiene Basics

The ruling does not affect hand sanitizers and other personal care products such as toothpaste (which, yes, may contain triclosan).

The takeaway: Per the FDA, washing your hands thoroughly with regular soap and water is the best way to protect against the spread of germs. Go figure.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.