News Brief

FDA: Antimicrobial Risks Outweigh Benefits

Common antibacterial chemicals, including triclosan, are the target of a proposed FDA rule.

Dial antibacterial soaps are among hundreds of triclosan-containing products being targeted by FDA. Environmental Working Group maintains a database of potentially toxic ingredients in personal care products on its Skin Deep website.

Biocides used in antibacterial soaps and incorporated into many building materials and consumer products probably do more harm than good, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency has released a new rule demanding that companies using triclosan, triclocarban, and similar biocides in “over-the-counter antiseptic drug products” prove that their products are not only safe and but also more effective than regular soap and water.

Mounting evidence suggests that triclosan, a chlorinated compound, affects the endocrine systems of animals, disrupts aquatic ecosystems, and may contribute to allergic sensitization in children. It also may cause antibiotic resistance and has shown potential for bioaccumulation.

Although the proposed FDA rule targets only “products intended for use with water“ (i.e., soap), the resulting data could potentially halt the widespread use of triclosan, triclocarban, and similar antibacterial compounds in consumer products and interior building materials. Antimicrobials are commonly used in everything from door hardware to drywall to paint (see “Antimicrobials: Hygiene or Harm?”).

The proprietary antimicrobial blend sold under the trade name Microban may or may not contain triclosan; the manufacturer lists an array of treated building products, from air filters to urinals, and claims the purpose of Microban is to protect building materials from mold, not to prevent disease.

The public comment period for the proposed rule will end June 16, 2014.



Published February 3, 2014

Melton, P. (2014, February 3). FDA: Antimicrobial Risks Outweigh Benefits. Retrieved from

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