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After years of research indicating that antibacterial chemicals in common household products may be causing health problems in consumers, the US Food and Drug Administration has finally decided to ask for proof that these substances are safe. If manufacturers can’t provide information on the safety of these compounds, they may be forced to remove them from their products completely.

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Proving that these widespread chemicals are harmless may be an uphill battle for these companies, if recent research is any indication.  For years, experts have expressed worries that triclosan and similar chemicals could be disrupting normal hormones in children, promoting allergies, and creating drug-resistant infections in health care settings. Just to add insult to injury, studies are starting to reveal that antibacterial soaps may not even be more effective at preventing the spread of disease than plain soap and water.

A wide variety of personal care products could potentially need to be reformulated, including mouthwash, laundry detergent, fabrics, and baby pacifiers. (The new rule wouldn’t affect hand sanitizer, however, which will be considered separately by the FDA.) The financial burden on companies that manufacture antibacterial products could be immense — antimicrobial and antibacterial liquid hand soaps make up a $450 million market in the US.

Via The New York Times