Recent concern over the safety of chemicals found in antibacterial soap has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to launch an investigation, with the agency claiming they want proof that the chemicals found in the soaps are not harmful to consumers.

The FDA announced a new rule in December, requiring soap manufacturers to prove the chemicals used in their antimicrobial products are safe and effective for consumers. The recent FDA rule has been applauded by health experts, as there has been long-term skepticism over the safety of chemicals found in antimicrobial products.

For years, public health experts have claimed that triclosan and triclocarban, chemicals commonly found in antibacterial liquid and bar soaps, could have an effect on hormones in children and cause drug-resistant infections to develop. Originally used by  surgeons to wash and sanitize their hands before surgery, the two chemicals were slowly added over the years to common household products, including hand soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, laundry detergent, fabrics, and baby pacifiers.

Additionally,earlier studies have indicated that both antimicrobial chemicals can disrupt the metabolism and reproductive systems in animals, and experts worry the effects could be the same for humans. However, soap manufacturers argue that the chemicals have already been proven as safe.

“Studies will sometimes uncover negative side effects of products that have been on the market and used by consumers for years,” commented Daniel Nigh, a product liability and Lipitor lawsuit lawyer with the Levin, Papantonio law firm. “For instance, the popular cholesterol drug Lipitor was prescribed and hailed as a safe product for years. While previous studies raised some concern about Lipitor causing Type-2 diabetes, it wasn’t until recently that new studies showed a substantial link that taking Lipitor may cause women to develop Type-2 diabetes.”

While soap manufacturers do not have to pull antimicrobial soap products from the shelves just yet, the companies whose products fall under the FDA rule must comply within a year and prove that substances used in the antimicrobial soaps are safe and effective. The rule will affect over 2,000 antibacterial soap products, including Henkel AG’s Dial. The rule does not apply to hand sanitizers, which will have its safety evaluated separately by the FDA.

Krysta is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @KrystaLoera.