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Anti-bacterial soap may not prevent spread of germs, says FDA

The US government says it has found no evidence that anti-bacterial soaps prevent the spread of germs.
December 16, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
After more than 40 years of testing, the FDA says there is no evidence that anti-bacterial soaps prevent the spread of germs. In fact, the federal government says the hand soaps used by millions of Americans may actually pose health risks.

Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration said chemical additives such as triclosan and similar substances can spur the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.

Over the last 20 years, companies have added triclosan and other cleaners to an estimated 75 percent of anti-bacterial liquid soaps and body washes across the U.S.

Under a proposed rule, the agency will require the makers of Dawn, Dial and other household staples to prove that their anti-bacterial cleaners are safe and more effective than plain soap and water.

Products that are not shown to be safe and effective by the end of 2016 will be removed from shelves.

"I suspect there are a lot of consumers who assume that by using an anti-bacterial soap product, they are protecting themselves from illness, protecting their families," said Sandra Kweder, deputy director in the FDA's drug center. "But we don't have any evidence that that is really the case over simple soap and water."

A spokesman for the cleaning product industry says the FDA already has "a wealth of data" showing the benefits of anti-bacterial products.

The agency will accept data from companies and researchers for one year before beginning to finalize the rule.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.