By Stephanie Stahl

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Antibacterial soap may cause more harm than good according to the Food and Drug Administration, which today proposed new regulations.

The FDA announced it’s taking a closer look at the potential dangers of antibacterial soap, and wants makers to prove they’re safe and effective.

Antibacterial soap is supposed to be an extra measure of protection against germs, at least that’s what most Americans believe.  But now the FDA is reviewing research that suggests the popular products may pose health risks.

“It’s high time. The FDA made this move,” said Dr. Anna Headly, an Internist with Cooper University Hospital.  She says using antibacterial soap can increase the risk of drug resistant bacteria.

“The vast majority of bacteria are helpful, not harmful,” said Dr. Headly.

The other concern is with a chemical called triclosan.  It’s in 75 percent of antibacterial soap products.  Research, mostly in animals, shows that triclosan can interfere with hormone levels, potentially increasing the risk of infertility or cancer.

“If it’s causing hormonal disruptions in animals that’s concerning,” said Dr. Headly.

The FDA wants manufacturers to prove antibacterial soaps are safe and more effective than plain soap and water.  If they can’t, they’d have to be reformulated, re-labeled, or removed from the market.

“It have very little benefit, and has the potential to be harmful,” said Dr. Headly.

The FDA will be reviewing data for a year before finalizing the new rule.  A statement from the American Cleaning Institute says in part, “it’s perplexed by the FDA’s actions because the industry has provided information showing the products are safe and effective… And it will continue to do so.”

This does not apply to hand sanitizers, which are mostly alcohol based.

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