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FDA Bans 19 Chemicals Used In Antibacterial Soaps (nbcnews.com) 248

The Food and Drug Administration has ordered "antibacterial" ingredients to be removed from consumer soaps, citing a lack of evidence that they are effective in making soap work any better and that the industry has failed to prove they're safe. The banned chemicals include triclosan, triclocarban and 17 others (PDF) typically found in hand and body soaps. Companies have until late next year to remove the ingredients from their products, the FDA said. "Companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections," the FDA said in a statement. NBC News reports: "In 2013 FDA gave soapmakers a year to show that adding antibacterial chemicals did anything at all to help them kill germs. It made the rule final Friday. The FDA started asking about triclosan in 1978. Environmental groups and some members of Congress have been calling for limits on the use of triclosan. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued and the FDA agreed to do something about triclosan by 2016. There's no proof that triclosan is dangerous to people, but some animal studies suggest high doses can affect the way hormones work in the body. The proposed rule only affects hand soaps and body washes. Triclosan is often used in toothpaste and it's been shown to help kill germs that cause gum disease."
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FDA Bans 19 Chemicals Used In Antibacterial Soaps

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  • True soap (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 03, 2016 @12:13AM (#52819729)

    Saponified oils (real soap) are high enough pH to be antibacterial on their own, most normal soaps nowadays are a small amount of SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and gelling agent and are only mildly antibiotic at best. If you want antibiotic soap get some sort of saponified soap, no need to contribute to the overuse of antibiotic agents in our environment that build resistance.

  • by rossdee ( 243626 )

    the alcohol based hand sanitzers dry my skin out too much.

    I work in the 'elder-care industry, I have to wash my hands hundreds of times per shift

    • Re:But (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @12:30AM (#52819793)

      The whole point is that regular soap and water are just as effective as those containing these antibacterial agents.

    • According to one article, the FDA is taking a look at the effectiveness of these sanitizers. The verb sanitize means to clean and some definitions add to sterilize. I don't believe the sterilize bit, particularly for MRSA.
    • It's OK, they're not banning soap, just additives that are unlikely to be anti-bacterial and, if they are, may be causing more problems than it's worth.
  • Fine by me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @12:36AM (#52819821)

    Now, if only I could find a liquid hand soap that doesn't contain moisturizers...

    • One of the remits of the FDA is to determine if the claims that chemicals in stuff for human use meet the claims of their producers and is not hazardous. If these chemicals put in soap don't kill germs as the makers may claim, then they must be removed from those products. One recent action of the FDA was to remove the claim that use of dental floss improves dental health because there has been no scientific proof by accepted scientific methods that it indeed improves dental health. One published "study" in
      • by x0ra ( 1249540 )

        OIf these chemicals put in soap don't kill germs as the makers may claim, then they must be removed from those products.

        Fuck that, if this has no action, but is safe, then the FDA should have no authority for an outright ban. Ghost detector can't detect shit, but it's still being sold...

        • If it's a lie, then the relevant regulator has every right to ban it. And justifying fraud by pointing at other instances of fraud (that the FDA isn't even mandated to regulate) isn't actually a good argument...


    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Or even harder: without perfume.

    • by maeka ( 518272 )

      Now, if only I could find a liquid hand soap that doesn't contain moisturizers...

      I would like to believe that the fact most hand soaps have moisturizers will decrease since it was always the fucking "antibacterial" agents which caused most of the skin damage in the first place.

    • I use unscented Dr. Bronner's for virtually everything; shampoo, hand soap, dishes...

    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      You could just use a bar of soap like a normal person...
  • We knew this already.

  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @01:07AM (#52819913)

    The press, being the idiots that they are, don't realize that the FDA doesn't have jurisdiction over "soap." The FDA isn't helping by trying to broaden their reach.

    Their order says "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a final rule establishing that over-the-counter (OTC) consumer antiseptic wash products containing certain active ingredients can no longer be marketed."

    That is not soap. In fact, the FDA says it has no jurisdiction over soap, which is confusing because on various webpages they say "Soap," and they do so in the title of said order as well.

    Here's the FDA's explanation of Soap:

    http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/G... [fda.gov]

    Here's the part that's relevant.

    "Not every product marketed as soap meets FDA's definition of the term. FDA interprets the term "soap" to apply only when

    the bulk of the nonvolatile matter in the product consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids and the product's detergent properties are due to the alkali-fatty acid compounds, and the product is labeled, sold, and represented solely as soap [21 CFR 701.20].

    Products that meet this definition of soap are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission disclaimer icon (CPSC), not by FDA. Please direct questions about these products, such as safety and labeling requirements, to CPSC. "

    • by x0ra ( 1249540 )
      Next thing you know, the FDA bans the dangerous chemical name "sodium stearate". They're not banning soap, just it's most common ingredient.
    • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @02:15AM (#52820055)

      The press, being the idiots that they are, don't realize that the FDA doesn't have jurisdiction over "soap." The FDA isn't helping by trying to broaden their reach.

      Their order says "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a final rule establishing that over-the-counter (OTC) consumer antiseptic wash products containing certain active ingredients can no longer be marketed."

      That is not soap. In fact, the FDA says it has no jurisdiction over soap, which is confusing because on various webpages they say "Soap," and they do so in the title of said order as well.

      Unfortunately, I think you're the one who is confused, though I can understand why. The key is in the definition you quote:

      FDA interprets the term "soap" to apply only when the bulk of the nonvolatile matter in the product consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids and the product's detergent properties are due to the alkali-fatty acid compounds, and the product is labeled, sold, and represented solely as soap

      I'm pretty sure the vast majority of products consumers associate with "antibacterial soaps" do NOT meet that definition. Most people think of antibacterial hand soaps, for example, which almost always are based on other detergents [wikipedia.org], for example the well-known (and maligned among "natural products" fans) sodium lauryl sulfate. These other detergents are commonly produced by other chemical means, which you can look up more information on if you want. They are more common, because they generally produce superior cleaning properties than "true soap" through surfactant properties, foaming properties, etc., which also allow them to be effective under a greater variety of conditions (e.g., hard water).

      Note that the FDA allows such products still to be marketed as "soap" as long as they have cleansing characteristics and purposes similar to traditional "true soap." Hence the confusion here. The FDA's announcement and reporters' use of the term "soap" was probably meant to inform consumers of the common vernacular association of the term, as well as how these products are marketed, not the technical regulatory definition.

      The number of "true soap" products that are ALSO "antibacterial" is probably quite small, because most of the "true soap" products used in situations where antibacterial soaps are common are marketed to be "natural" and thus are unlikely to contain a lot of these antibacterial agents.

      And even where such products exist, there is a regulatory argument to be made by the final element of the FDA definition, i.e., "the product is labeled, sold, and represented solely as soap." According to traditional definition, "soap" is not "antibacterial." These products are making a claim of additional action -- rather than just being a cleanser or detergent, they are also an active antibacterial agent, hence, I'm not sure they'd satisfy the criterion of being "represented SOLELY as soap."

    • You may have missed the following text from the same page:

      If a product....is intended not only for cleansing but also to cure, treat, or prevent disease...it is regulated as a drug, or possibly both a drug and a cosmetic. Examples include antibacterial cleansers.

      From the FDA announcement: [fda.gov]

      Antibacterial hand and body wash manufacturers did not provide the necessary data to establish safety and effectiveness for the 19 active ingredients addressed in this final rulemaking. For these ingredients, either no additional data were submitted or the data and information that were submitted were not sufficient for the agency to find that these ingredients are Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective (GRAS/GRAE).

      Having classified these products as drugs, the FDA does have jurisdiction. The ruling was proposed in 2013, subjected to public review, subjected to congressional review and finalized last week.

  • The Point... (Score:5, Informative)

    by EmeraldBot ( 3513925 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @01:47AM (#52819999)

    The point of this isn't to ban a harmless ingredient, but to ban a harmless ingredient that could eventually prove to not be so harmless. Completely putting aside the potential long term interactions on the human body - which is hugely significant, lead and arsenic don't cause their damage in one day either - "antibacterial" soaps are essentially the same thing as "antibiotic" soaps, and you may see where this is going. 99.9% of the time, killing off all these harmless bacteria doesn't yield any benefit, but it will breed stronger bacteria over time, and that can lead tro some very nasty things. Gonorrhea, for example, is an STD that was once easily curable, but is now becoming harder and harder to treat, and I believe there is a new strain popping up for which there is no cure known at the present time. When such a disease appears and is immune to our easiest form of defense, it has the potential to become an unstoppable epidemic, and again, there's no benefit at all to killing otherwise harmless bacteria (which may even help strengthen our immune systems).

    Secondly, these soaps are snake oil, and in more ways than one. Antibacterial soaps do absolutely nothing to stop viruses, so if you think this soap will help protect you from the common cold or the flu, think again. It's also no more effective than normal soap, so you're paying more for a completely useless product, and I doubt many people know this - at the very least, stronger labeling is definitely required. Bait-and-switch, along with the false sense of security, is an issue.

    And if all that doesn't convince you, than consider this: we already have a product for all of this, and it's known as hand sanitizer. If there is a place or occasion where you really need to disinfect your hands, use this stuff; it's cheap, effective, usable on the go (the places where you probably need it the most), and bacteria isn't going to be adapting to alcohol anytime soon. As a result, you limit bacterial adaptability, you save money, you destroy viruses, and you don't play Russian Roulette with our ecosystem. Common sense, people.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      I would have no objection to the FDA demanding accurate labeling including "This product contains chemicals that have not been proven safe for human use and have no proven benefit" and let the people decide from there.

      Personally, I avoid "antibacterial" soaps. I have known for a long time that they probably do more harm than good. But at the same time, the FDA has screwed up enough as it is without allowing it to expand it's reach ever further. Do we really want soap and foods to become as expensive as drug

      • by x0ra ( 1249540 )

        I would have no objection to the FDA demanding accurate labeling including "This product contains chemicals that have not been proven safe for human use and have no proven benefit" and let the people decide from there.

        Which is blatantly false... http://arstechnica.com/science... [arstechnica.com]

        Though the agency ruled years ago that triclosan and other antimicrobials are safe, it’s now revisiting claims that the chemicals make soaps and other personal care products better.

        Kinda like the ATF arbitrary deciding to ban stuff overnight while it previously considered them legal for years / decades before.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          That's one reason I would like to see the FDA demoted to an advisory only capacity. It would at least limit the damage they can cause when they decide it's time for someone else to kiss their ass and lick their boots.

      • by DogDude ( 805747 )
        Wow. You should read some more. We have a LOT of dangerous or ineffective products in the US that other countries don't allow. The FDA doesn't do nearly enough.
        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          And if we had a sensible and functional regulatory body, I would be happy to see it at work, but as long as we have bought out ass-clowns, I would prefer them toothless.

    • NO!!! "antibacterial" is NOT essentially the same thing as "antibiotic". There is no connection between antibiotic resistant bacteria and the use of antibacterial soap (or anything else). Something which you acknowledge when you talk about hand sanitizers (which, by the way, I am pretty sure are covered in this FDA ruling).

      There is a legitimate concern with antibacterial soap. The problem with antibacterial soap is that it kills off the beneficial bacteria to an even greater degree than it kills off harmf
      • From the announcement:

        This rule does not affect consumer hand “sanitizers” or wipes, or antibacterial products used in health care settings.

      • Antibacterials are antibiotics used to treat surfaces rather than being ingested. This article [tufts.edu] predates the ruling but the scientific explanation is still relevant. Note the following text:

        Additional experiments found that some bacteria can combat triclosan and other biocides with export systems that could also pump out antibiotics. It was demonstrated that these triclosan-resistant mutants were also resistant to several antibiotics, specifically chloramphenicol, ampicillin, tetracycline and ciprofloxacin.

        • Triclosan is NOT an antibiotic. The link you provided states as much. As far as I have been able to find, none of the other antibacterials are antibiotics. However, I was unaware that triclosan worked in a manner similar enough to some antibiotics that resistance developed to it would also work against those antibiotics.

          I still do not believe that it is appropriate for the FDA to regulate antibacterials in soap.
  • by lxs ( 131946 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @03:37AM (#52820231)

    Story: FDA approves X
    Reaction: Waaah the government puts dangerous chemicals in everything!

    Story: FDA bans Y
    Reaction: Waaah the government is meddling with our harmless chemicals!

    • Whoever modded this interesting applied their mod points before all the other moderators woke up as most of the current modded comments are the exact opposite of this.

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        Perhaps. But sometimes what happens at Slashdot is that someone points out hypocricy, and once that comment is modded up, other moderators realize the hypocrisy and steer the discussion away from it.

  • by cshark ( 673578 )

    Safe is a negative. It's impossible to prove that something is "safe." What they should be doing is testing to see if the product is harmful. That's the bar every other type legal standard is based on.

  • I agree with the government that people keep using products that kill many or most of the germs, the survivors will kill us, because they would have become immune to them.

    People lose track of the fact that we are living things, living in an eco system. We are made of germs, and we have germ friends in our gut, and around our body. To listen to marketing spheal, you would think we are inorganic beings that should be separate from the rest of the world.

    I disagree with some of the other stated reasons.

  • Let's say you get your hands really dirty, maybe handling rotten garbage, then you wash your hands with regular soap and water, maybe with a nail brush. Afterwards, did you ever look at your squeaky clean hands and worry that there was still bacteria on them? Me neither.

Do you suffer painful hallucination? -- Don Juan, cited by Carlos Casteneda

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