As FDA Bans Soap Ingredients, Companies Start To Change Formulas

By Olivia Richard
Published: Sunday, November 27, 2016 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, December 5, 2016 - 4:54pm
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Soap is something you would expect to be pretty straightforward. But if you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed some companies are making a few changes when it comes to the ingredients used in the suds they supply.

If you haven’t checked your soap lately, you may want to do so. Some companies are changing up the ingredients you’re lathering up with in an effort to abide by a recent FDA ban.

The FDA determined long-term exposure to certain active ingredients found in many antibacterial products could actually pose a significant health risk to consumers.

Arizona State University graduate student Joshua Steele, who helped gather the data that led to the ban, says marketing of antimicrobials in soap is just clever advertisement.

“The advantage of antimicrobials is that they’re really easily marketable. When I was little, I’d go to Walmart and buy soap and I’d see the regular soap, you know, and then you see this soap here that says it kills 99.999 percent of germs, you think, ‘oh that’s a good thing. I don’t want bacteria, I don’t want to die,’ and so you buy these soap,” Steele said.

The ban includes the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, most commonly found in bar soaps and shower gels, along with 17 other ingredients. In the report the FDA cited a lack of sufficient data proving the banned ingredients were safe and effective.

The FDA ruling requires companies using any of the 19 now-prohibited ingredients to completely remove them by September 2017. However, some companies aren’t waiting, and have already begun phasing out the use of these chemicals in their products.

But it’s more than just that, says Steele.

“The FDA is wanting to be really careful with antimicrobial soap, you know they’re killing huge percentages of bacteria and ultimately leaving behind strong ones that have a unique characteristic that makes them not susceptible to those antimicrobials,” he said. “The FDA is concerned that that could eventually create some kind of super bacteria, the same way that antibiotics might.”

The ban does not include hand sanitizers, wipes or products used in a healthcare setting. The FDA says the most effective cleaner is still traditional soap and water.

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