Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term," the FDA said. (Photo: Jeff/flickr/cc)

'Huge Victory for Health': FDA Orders Antibacterials Removed from Soaps

Triclosan has been shown to disrupt hormones and muscle function, environmental groups say

Nadia Prupis

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday issued a rule banning antibacterials in soap, which the agency said were no more effective than simple soap and much more harmful for the environment and consumer health.

The FDA gave companies a year to remove chemicals such as triclosan and triclocarban from their products or take them off the shelves entirely, and an additional year to get rid of ingredients like benzalkonium chloride, which are less commonly used.

"Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water," Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), said in a statement. "In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term."

As environmental and public health groups have noted, triclosan has been shown to disrupt hormones and muscle function. And although the chemical kills bacteria by breaking open their cell walls, the process takes up to nine hours—so it is ineffective when simply washing hands.

"This decision by the FDA is a huge victory on behalf of human health and the environment," said Environmental Working Group (EWG) president and co-founder Ken Cook.

The organization, which has offices in California, previously found "widespread" triclosan contamination in the San Francisco Bay.

Mae Wu, a senior attorney in the Health Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said, "Consumers have waited a long time for this sensible safeguard. Banning triclosan in these products is a huge step toward ensuring that the soaps we use every day on our bodies are safer."

"But," she added, "FDA also needs to act quickly to ascertain the safety of at least two other chemicals (benzalkonium chloride and benzethonium chloride) in these products that are suspected of posing serious health risks. Consumers must never be treated as guinea pigs."

Many companies have already removed triclosan from their soaps, after the FDA issued a separate proposed rule in 2013 requiring manufacturers prove their antibacterial products are safe and effective.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Half-Measures Are No Longer Enough': Haaland Urged to Sign Order to Halt Extinction Crisis

"The United States can restore its position as a global leader in conservation and prevent many of these extinctions, but it must take swift action that matches the extent and scale of the problem."

Brett Wilkins ·


Despite Outcry, Japanese Prime Minister Urges Swift Release of Fukushima Wastewater Into Sea

South Korea has said the release of the radioactive wastewater poses a "grave threat" to marine life.

Julia Conley ·


Manchin Sparks Fury With Demands for Work Requirement, $60K Income Cap on Child Tax Credit

"Who besides a cartoon villain would ever think this is a good idea?"

Kenny Stancil ·


Colin Powell, Who Helped George W. Bush Lie Nation Into Iraq War, Dead at 84

"It's crucial to remember just how important Colin Powell was to selling the Iraq War, and how deliberately he used his public credibility to boost the lies that pushed us into the war. That is his biggest legacy."

Jon Queally ·


'Indefensible': US Billionaires Became $2.1 Trillion Richer in 19 Months of Pandemic

New analysis shows that just 745 individuals have combined $5 trillion in wealth—most of which will never be taxed—as nations reels from pain inflicted by Covid-19.

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo