In a ruling last month that hones in on two hotly-debated antimicrobial agents; triclosan and triclocarban, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed restrictions on those and 17 other chemicals (listed here) currently used in soaps. Worryingly, triclosan is found in more than 90 percent of liquid antibacterial products right now.
For those who haven’t been following the news, in 2013 the FDA required brands to prove the chemicals were effective at killing germs – something they weren’t able to do. So now the FDA has responded by giving companies 12 months to remove both triclosan and triclocarbon (and 17 other chemicals) from hand-wash products.
“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,” explained Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a statement. She added that there may even be risks to using these ingredients: “Some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”
During the next year companies have the option to prove that some of the less common ingredients on the list are effective, including benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol (PCMX). This means that you may still see some of these ingredients in products on store shelves. The ruling also doesn’t impact the liquid hand-sanitizer product category (which largely uses alcohol as a disinfectant), and only applies to consumer products – antibacterial hand washes containing the 19 ingredients that are used in hospitals or in food service settings are still approved.
Triclosan, one of the banned ingredients that has also been the cause of a great amount of controversy recently, is a registered pesticide, and could facilitate bacterial resistance to antibiotics. The American Medical Association has even advised that families should avoid using triclosan. Studies also link the chemical to hormone disruption, and it’s also believed to throw out the balance in your gut bacteria and increase allergies.
Sophia Ruan Gushee author of A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures says that triclosan and triclocarban could also be present in other items you use every single day. “[It] may be present in toothpaste, cleaning products (including disinfectant soaps and sprays), body washes, some cosmetics, as well as cutting boards, kitchenware, and other products that claim to ‘fight odors,’ ‘keep food fresher, longer,’ or to be antibacterial.” That includes articles of clothing like antibacterial activewear, interior furnishings, or even toys. Also, since the FDA rule affects “consumer antiseptic wash products” intended for use with water, and does not affect consumer hand sanitizers or wipes, there’s a chance these chemicals may still be present in some antibacterials.
Gushee echoes the the recommendation given by The American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Microbiology: “Simply wash hands with soap and water to kill germs and prevent the spread of infections.”
If you want to go one step further into the realm of natural beauty, try a vegetable-based soap, such as castile. “I use organic castile soap at home, and even used it to wash my face, body, and hair throughout my pregnancies and while nursing my children,” Gushee told us.
If you’re looking for some all-natural (and castile) soap options to replace the antimicrobial products on your vanity right now, keep scrolling.