Antibacterial soap is a type of cleaning product which contain chemical ingredients that purportedly assist in killing bacteria. Such chemicals frequently include triclosan, triclocarban, and chloroxylenol.
The effectiveness of products branded as being antibacterial has been disputed, with studies finding that these chemicals are no more effective at deactivating viruses than any other kind of soap or detergent. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also asserted that products which contain triclosan do not show that they reduce the transmission of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections. In September 2016, the FDA banned the use of nineteen chemicals frequently used in such products due to this and insufficient information on the long-term health effects of their use.
Studies have examined the purported benefits of antibacterial soap without clear consensus about the results. Some studies have concluded that simply washing thoroughly with plain soap is sufficient to reduce bacteria and, further, is effective against viruses. Other studies have found that soaps containing antimicrobial active ingredients remove more bacteria than simply washing with plain soap and water. A study by Dr. Elaine Larson of Columbia University's School of Nursing found that the use of antibacterial products had no noticeable effects over a 48-week period. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published reports that question the use of antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers saying that it found no medical studies that showed a link between a specific consumer antibacterial product and a decline in infection rates.
Stuart Levy, a microbiologist at Tufts University, cited these studies to compare antibacterial action with antibiotic resistance: "Dousing everything we touch with antibacterial soaps and taking antibiotic medications at the first sign of a cold can upset the natural balance of microorganisms in and around us, leaving behind only the 'superbugs'." It has since been shown that the laboratory method used by Levy was not effective in predicting bacterial resistance for biocides like triclosan. At least seven peer-reviewed and published studies have been conducted demonstrating that triclosan is not significantly associated with bacterial resistance over the short term, including one study coauthored by Levy.
Recent research from Levy's lab concludes that "The results from our study do not implicate the use of antibacterial cleaning and hygiene products as an influential factor in carriage of antimicrobial drug-resistant bacteria on the hands of household members." However, a more recent literature review performed by Levy concluded that "The lack of an additional health benefit associated with the use of triclosan-containing consumer soaps over regular soap, coupled with laboratory data demonstrating a potential risk of selecting for drug resistance, warrants further evaluation by governmental regulators regarding antibacterial product claims and advertising." The paper's authors called for continued research in this area.
On September 2, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of 19 chemicals frequently used in "antibacterial" soaps and washes, including triclosan and triclocarban. The FDA states that there is no scientific evidence that these chemicals have any antibacterial effect, nor that antibacterial soaps are more effective than standard soap. The agency also asserted that despite requests for such information, the FDA did not receive sufficient data for manufacturers on the long-term health effects of these chemicals. This ban does not apply to hand sanitizer.
- "FDA Taking Closer Look at 'Antibacterial' Soap". U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
- "Five Reasons Why You Should Probably Stop Using Antibacterial Soap". Smithonian Magazine. 3 January 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- "FDA bans common ingredients in antibacterial soaps and body washes". Washington Post. 2 September 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- Lucet, JC; Rigaud MP; Mentre F; Kassis N; Deblangy C; Andremont A; Bouvet E (April 2002). "Hand contamination before and after different hand hygiene techniques: a randomized clinical trial". Journal of Hospital Infection. 50 (4): 276–280. doi:10.1053/jhin.2002.1202. PMID 12014900.
- Gibson, LL; Rose JB; Haas CN; Gerba CP; Rusin PA (May 2002). "Quantitative assessment of risk reduction from hand washing with antibacterial soaps". Journal of Applied Microbiology. 92: 136S–143S. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2672.92.5s1.17.x. PMID 12000622.
- "Germs, Germs Everywhere. Are You Worried? Get Over It.". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- FDA questions use of antibacterial soaps (Tuesday, October 18, 2005) By Jane Zhang, The Wall Street Journal
- McBain AJ, Bartolo RG, Catrenich CE, et al. (2003). "Exposure of sink drain microcosms to triclosan: population dynamics and antimicrobial susceptibility". Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 69 (9): 5433–42. doi:10.1128/AEM.69.9.5433-5442.2003. PMC . PMID 12957932.
- Aiello AE, Marshall B, Levy SB, Della-Latta P, Larson E (2004). "Relationship between triclosan and susceptibilities of bacteria isolated from hands in the community". Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 48 (8): 2973–9. doi:10.1128/AAC.48.8.2973-2979.2004. PMC . PMID 15273108.
- Aiello AE, Marshall B, Levy SB, Della-Latta P, Lin SX, Larson E. (2005), Antibacterial cleaning products and drug resistance. Emerg Infect Dis., Oct;11(10):1565-70
- Aiello AE, Larson EL, Levy SB. (2007), Consumer antibacterial soaps: effective or just risky? Clin Infect Dis., Sep 1;45 Suppl 2:S137-47