FDA: Antibacterial Soap May Do More Harm Than Good

Germ-targeting soaps are being investigated over health concerns. Here’s what parents must know.



For years, parents have been shelling out bucks for antibacterial soap, figuring the extra antibacterial boost would give their dirty little ones a leg up when it came to fighting germs. Now, the FDA is looking into antibacterial soap, saying that it may not be any more effective—and, in fact, may be harmful, with the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban contributing to bacterial resistance to antibiotics and possibly having hormonal effects.

So, what’s a health-conscious parent to do? According to Debra Etelson, MD, a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of Southern Westchester in New Rochelle and mommy blogger at MD Mommy, it may not matter which soap your kids wash their hands with, so long as they do it. “It is far more important to be vigilant about frequent hand-washing than which soap to use,” she says. “I don’t recommend antibacterial soaps for general hygiene. Regular soap and water is adequate and eliminates the potential of bacterial resistance. That said, I don’t like making it too complicated for parents because I don’t want them to be so worried about antibacterial soaps that they are afraid to use what happens to be available.” So go ahead and use whatever is—pardon the pun—on hand, and we can all wash our hands of the whole conundrum. 

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