Antibacterial soaps ineffective - and may even harm: FDA

Antibacterial soap-makers would also have to show that their products are more effective than plain soap at preventing illness and the spread of infections, under rules proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday.

The products typically contain the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, "which may carry unnecessary risks given that their benefits are unproven", the FDA said.

Some studies have shown these soaps may affect thyroid, oestrogen, and testosterone function in lab animals, and that they may be boosting resistance to common antibiotics.

"New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits," said Colleen Rogers, a lead microbiologist at FDA.

"There are indications that certain ingredients in these soaps may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and may have unanticipated hormonal effects that are of concern to FDA."