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Five Reasons Why You Should Probably Stop Using Antibacterial Soap

antibacterial soap

A few weeks ago, the FDA announced a bold new position on antibacterial soap: Manufacturers have to show that it's both safe and more effective than simply washing with conventional soap and water, or they have to take it off the shelves in the next few years.

About 75 percent of liquid antibacterial soaps and 30 percent of bars use a chemical called triclosan as an active ingredient. The drug, which was originally used strictly in hospital settings, was adopted by manufacturers of soaps and other home products during the 1990s, eventually ballooning into an industry that's worth an estimated $1 billion. Apart from soap, we've begun putting the chemical in wipes, hand gels, cutting boards, mattress pads and all sorts of home items as we try our best to eradicate any trace of bacteria from our environment.

But triclosan's use in home over-the-counter products was never fully evaluated by the FDA—incredibly, the agency was ordered to produce a set of guidelines for the use of triclosan in home products way back in 1972, but only published its final draft on December 16 of last year. Their report, the product of decades of research, notes that the costs of antibacterial soaps likely outweigh the benefits, and forces manufacturers to prove otherwise.

Bottom line: Manufacturers have until 2016 to do so, or pull their products from the shelves. But we're here to tell you that you probably shouldn't wait that long to stop using antibacterial soaps. Here's our rundown of five reasons why that's the case:

1. Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than conventional soap and water. As mentioned in the announcement, 42 years of FDA research—along with countless independent studies—have produced no evidence that triclosan provides any health benefits as compared to old-fashioned soap.

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

Manufacturers say they do have evidence of triclosan's superior efficacy, but the disagreement stems from the use of different sorts of testing methods. Tests that strictly measure the number of bacteria on a person's hands after use do show that soaps with triclosan kill slightly more bacteria than conventional ones.

But the FDA wants data that show that this translates into an actual clinical benefit, such as reduced infection rates. So far, analyses of the health benefits don't show any evidence that triclosan can reduce the transmission of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections. This might be due to the fact that antibacterial soaps specifically target bacteria, but not the viruses that cause the majority of seasonal colds and flus.

2. Antibacterial soaps have the potential to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The reason that the FDA is making manufacturers prove these products' efficacy is because of a range of possible health risks associated with triclosan, and bacterial resistance is first on the list.

Heavy use of antibiotics can cause resistance, which results from a small subset of a bacteria population with a random mutation that allows it to survive exposure to the chemical. If that chemical is used frequently enough, it'll kill other bacteria, but allow this resistant subset to proliferate. If this happens on a broad enough scale, it can essentially render that chemical useless against the strain of bacteria.

This is currently a huge problem in medicine—the World Health Organization calls it a "threat to global health security." Some bacteria species (most notably, MRSA) have even acquired resistance to several different drugs, complicating efforts to control and treat infections as they spread. Health officials say that further research is needed before we can say that triclosan is fueling resistance, but severalstudies have hinted at the possibility.

Five Reasons Why You Should Probably Stop Using Antibacterial Soap

3. The soaps could act as endocrine disruptors.  A number of studies have found that, in rats, frogs and other animals, triclosan appears to interfere with the body's regulation of thyroid hormone, perhaps because it chemically resembles the hormone closely enough that it can bind to its receptor sites. If this is the case in humans, too, there are worries that it could lead to problems such as infertility, artificially-advanced early puberty, obesity and cancer.

These same effects haven't yet been found in humans, but the FDA calls the animal studies "a concern"—and notes that, given the minimal benefits of long-term triclosan use, it's likely not worth the risk. 

4. The soaps might lead to other health problems, too. There's evidence that children with prolonged exposure to triclosan have a higher chance of developing allergies, including peanut allergies and hay fever. Scientists speculate that this could be a result of reduced exposure to bacteria, which could be necessary for proper immune system functioning and development.

Another study found evidence that triclosan interfered with muscle contractions in human cells, as well as muscle activity in live mice and minnows. This is especially concerning given other findings that the chemical can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream more easily than originally thought. A 2008 survey, for instance, found triclosan in the urine of 75 percent of people tested.

5. Antibacterial soaps are bad for the environment. When we use a lot of triclosan in soap, that means a lot of triclosan gets flushed down the drain. Research has shown that small quantities of the chemical can persist after treatment at sewage plants, and as a result, USGS surveys have frequently detected it in streams and other bodies of water. Once in the environment, triclosan can disrupt algae's ability to perform photosynthesis.

The chemical is also fat-soluble—meaning that it builds up in fatty tissues—so scientists are concerned that it can biomagnify, appearing at greater levels in the tissues of animals higher up the food chain, as the triclosan of all the plants and animals below them is concentrated. Evidence of this possibility was turned up in 2009, when surveys of bottlenose dolphins off the coast of South Carolina and Florida found concerning levels of the chemical in their blood.

What Should You Do?

If you're planning on giving up antibacterial soap—like Johnson & Johnson, Kaiser Permanente and several other companies have recently done—you have a couple options.

One is a non-antibiotic hand sanitizer, like Purell, which don't contain any triclosan and simply kill both bacteria and viruses with good old-fashioned alcohol. Because the effectiveness of hand-washing depends on how long you wash for, a quick squirt of sanitizer might be more effective when time is limited.

Outside of hospitals, though, the CDC recommends the time-tested advice you probably heard as a child: wash your hands with conventional soap and water. That's because while alcohol from hand sanitizer kills bacteria, it doesn't actually remove dirt or anything else you may have touched. But a simple hand wash should do the trick. The water doesn't need to be hot, and you're best off scrubbing for about 30 seconds to get properly clean.

Sours: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-reasons-why-you-should-probably-stop-using-antibacterial-soap-180948078/

Antibacterial Chemical Raises Safety Issues

The maker of Dial Complete hand soap says that it kills more germs than any other brand. But is it safe?

That question has federal regulators, consumer advocates and soap manufacturers locked in a battle over the active ingredient in Dial Complete and many other antibacterial soaps, a chemical known as triclosan.

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the safety of the chemical, which was created more than 40 years ago as a surgical scrub for hospitals. Triclosan is now in a range of consumer products, including soaps, kitchen cutting boards and even a best-selling toothpaste, Colgate Total. It is so prevalent that a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the chemical present in the urine of 75 percent of Americans over the age of 5.

Several studies have shown that triclosan may alter hormone regulation in laboratory animals or cause antibiotic resistance, and some consumer groups and members of Congress want it banned in antiseptic products like hand soap. The F.D.A. has already said that soap with triclosan is no more effective than washing with ordinary soap and water, a finding that manufacturers dispute.

The F.D.A. was to announce the results of its review several months ago, but now says the timing is uncertain and unlikely until next year. The Environmental Protection Agency is also looking into the safety of triclosan.

The outcome of the federal inquiries poses a significant risk to the makers of antimicrobial and antibacterial hand soaps, which represent about half of the $750 million market for liquid hand soaps in the United States, according to the market research firm Kline & Company.

Many of those soaps use triclosan as the active ingredient and say so on the label. Dial Complete is the fifth-best-selling liquid hand soap in the nation, according to data collected from most major stores (except for Wal-Mart) by SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm.

Richard Theiler, senior vice president for research and development at Henkel, the German-based manufacturer of Dial Complete, said there was no real evidence showing that triclosan was dangerous for humans. He also said that several recent studies had proved the effectiveness of triclosan in killing germs, and that those studies had been submitted to the federal regulators.

“It has been used now in products safely for decades,” Mr. Theiler said.

But as consumer groups have campaigned against triclosan, some consumer product manufacturers have removed it and substituted less controversial ingredients. Reckitt Benckiser removed triclosan from three face washes, for instance. And citing “changing consumer preferences,” Colgate-Palmolive replaced triclosan with lactic acid in Palmolive Antibacterial Dish Liquid, and its Softsoap liquid hand soap has been reformulated without the chemical.

Colgate, however, continues to use triclosan in its Colgate Total toothpaste because it has been proved to fight gingivitis, a claim approved by the F.D.A.

“The safety and efficacy of Colgate Total toothpaste is fully supported by over 70 clinical studies in over 10,000 patients,” the company said in a statement.

Scientists have raised concerns about triclosan for decades. Last year, Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts, pressured the F.D.A. to write regulations for antiseptic products like hand soap, including the use of triclosan. The process of creating regulations was started more than three decades ago, but has been repeatedly delayed. In the meantime, Mr. Markey has called for a ban on triclosan in hand soaps, in products that come in contact with food and in products marketed to children.

ImageTriclosan stands out on the label of Dial Complete.

The concern is based on recent studies about the possible health impacts of triclosan, which the F.D.A. said, in a Feb. 23, 2010, letter to Mr. Markey, “raise valid concerns about the effect of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients.”

Several have shown that triclosan disrupts the thyroid hormone in frogs and rats, while others have shown that triclosan alters the sex hormones of laboratory animals. Others studies have shown that triclosan can cause some bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics.

Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, said the evidence against triclosan was hardly convincing and that the chemical had been used safely in consumer products and in hospitals for decades. He said there was no evidence that triclosan caused antibiotic resistance.

“You would think after heavy use in hospital settings over several decades it would have shown up by now,” Mr. Sansoni said. “This is one of those big urban myths that opponents of these products try to spread.”

Concerning studies that showed triclosan to be an endocrine disrupter, he said that the animals used in the studies were subjected to “levels that the rat, let alone us, would never come in contact with in everyday use.”

According to a lawsuit filed last year by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the F.D.A. first proposed regulating over-the-counter topical antiseptic drug products like triclosan in 1972, but the review has never been completed. In 1978, the F.D.A. proposed eliminating triclosan as an active ingredient in hospital scrubs and in hand soaps within a couple of years.

The agency issued a similar order in 1994, but again, nothing final was authorized, the lawsuit says.

The environmental group’s lawsuit sought to pressure the F.D.A. to complete its regulations of antiseptic soaps.

Triclosan is often the active ingredient in soaps that are marketed as antibacterial or antimicrobial, even though, in 2005, an F.D.A. advisory panel said triclosan-laced soap was no better at preventing illness than other soap and water.

“A lot of people mistakenly believe that if they buy something with a chemical in it that is antibacterial that it’s a plus,” said Dr. Sarah Janssen, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “I think the marketing of these far outweighs the statements on F.D.A.’s Web site, which most people don’t even go to.”

Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, the F.D.A.’s deputy director for regulatory programs, said its review was primarily focused on hand soaps but could extend to other consumer products if the agency determined that triclosan raised health concerns. He said that the F.D.A. had determined that triclosan provided a benefit in Colgate Total, by fighting gingivitis, where triclosan in soap did not.

“That is an important difference to us,” he said.

Indeed, several lawsuits have been filed saying that Henkel is making false claims in its marketing of Dial Complete. But Mr. Theiler, at Henkel, said he was confident that recent studies would vindicate triclosan.

“We note that the F.D.A. stated in their announcement on April 8, 2010, that the agency ‘does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time,’ ” he said. “We concur with this position.”

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/business/triclosan-an-antibacterial-chemical-in-consumer-products-raises-safety-issues.html
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Dial (soap)

Brand of soap and bodywash.

Dial is an American brand of soap and body wash manufactured by Henkel, the American subsidiary of Henkel AG & Co. KGaA. It was the world's first antibacterial soap.[1]


Dial was developed by a chemist from Armour and Company, a meat-packing company, and introduced in the Chicago market in 1948.[2][3][4] Armour had produced soap since 1888; its laundry soap[5] was made from tallow, a by-product of Armour's meat production processes.[6] Dial was made antibacterial by the addition of hexachlorophene,[7] referred to by the company as AT-7.[3] The product was named Dial and promised "round-the-clock" protection against the odor caused by perspiration.[5]

Dial was introduced nationally in 1949 and was advertised as "the first active, really effective deodorant soap in all history [because it] removes skin bacteria that cause perspiration odor".[3] Although researchers had never established a link between hexachlorophene and germ protection, Armour's early advertisements graphically depicted germs and microbes before and after use of Dial soap.[3] Hexachlorophene, the active ingredient in Dial, was removed from the consumer market and strictly limited in the hospital setting in the early 1970s amid reports that it caused neurological damage in infants. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) outlawed its use in non-medicinal products, Armour-Dial replaced it with triclocarban, a synthetic antibacterial compound.[3][7]

Dial became the leading deodorant soap brand in the U.S.[8] From 1953 until the mid-1990s, Dial soap was advertised under the slogan "Aren't you glad you use Dial? (Don't you wish everybody did?)" which became a popular catchphrase.[4]

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This section needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(April 2021)

In September 2016, the FDA ruled that antibacterial soaps containing triclocarban and triclosan can no longer be marketed.[9] Dial replaced these ingredients with benzalkonium chloride (for bar soaps) and benzethonium chloride (for liquid hand soaps). In its 2016 ruling, the FDA also stated that it is deferring the final rule on benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol by a year to allow for the development and submission of new safety and effectiveness data for these ingredients. Consumer antibacterial washes containing these specific ingredients may be marketed during this time while data are being collected.[10]


In addition to the original bar soap, other products sold under the Dial name include liquid body wash, hand sanitizer, and hand soap.[11]


  1. ^Turner, Tyya N. (2005). Vault Guide To The Top Consumer Products Employers. Vault Inc. p. 104. ISBN .
  2. ^Lazarus, George (22 August 1990). "Nabisco has small plans for cookie". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  3. ^ abcdeDayan, Nava; Wertz, Philip W. (2011). Innate Immune System of Skin and Oral Mucosa: Properties and impact in pharmaceutics, cosmetics, and personal care products. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 19–22. ISBN .
  4. ^ ab"Dial Corp". fundinguniverse.com. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  5. ^ abAllen, Gary J.; Albala, Ken (2007). The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the food and drink industries. ABC-CLIO. p. 34. ISBN .
  6. ^Ator, Joseph (3 May 1962). "Meat Packers Stew Over Fat Problem". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  7. ^ ab"US Order Curbs Hexachlorophene". Milwaukee Sentinel. 23 September 1972. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  8. ^Shyr, Luna I. (18 February 1996). "Dial corporation splitting into two". The Daily Courier. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  9. ^Grover, Natalie (2 September 2016). "FDA halts sale of some antibacterial hand, body wash products". Reuters. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  10. ^Grover, Natalie (2 September 2016). "FDA halts sale of some antibacterial hand, body wash products". Reuters. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  11. ^"Dial Soap home page". dialsoap.com. 2010. Retrieved 10 May 2012.

External links[edit]

Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dial_(soap)

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Antibacterial dial soap

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