Say Goodbye to Antibacterial Soaps

Say Goodbye to Antibacterial Soaps

In the 1966 campy TV romp, It’s About Time, two astronauts, Mac and Hector (Frank Aletter and Jack Mullaney) travel back in time and meet cave-dwellers Shad (Imogene Coco) and Gronk (Joe E. Ross). The 26 episodes are mostly remembered for their theme song: “It’s about time, it’s about space, about two men in the strangest place,” written by the Gilligan’s Island folks.

Well, we had another “it’s about time” moment a few days ago, when the FDA handed down its final ruling on the inclusion of triclosans and other antibacterials in consumer products. We’ve been railing against their use for years! Soap and water washes off bad bacteria very effectively, with no potential for disrupting thyroid and reproductive hormones or fueling antibiotic resistance.

So what’s the FDA’s final word? They say, “certain active ingredients used in over-the-counter (OTC) consumer antiseptic products intended for use with water (consumer antiseptic washes) are not generally recognized as safe and effective (GRAS/GRAE) and are misbranded.” Strong stuff.

The ruling applies to consumer soaps and cleaners containing one or more of 19 specific active ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarban. The ruling does not cover consumer hand sanitizers and wipes (they’re usually alcohol-based and safe) or antibacterial products used in hospitals and other health care settings, where they need them.

But the bad guy ingredients aren’t banished until September 6, 2017! So keep reading those labels, and remember, wash hands with soap and water and do it for as long as it takes you to sing Happy Birthday!

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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