The colorful gels have become the front lines in our fight against germs. Antiseptic hand sanitizers in greens, blues and reds are now ubiquitous in schools, workplaces and hospitals. They are must-haves in moms’ pocketbooks. And they have been distributed around the world.

While these products were designed to be used when old-fashioned soap and water aren’t available, many people use them multiple times a day even when a sink is nearby under the belief that they are killing more bacteria.

The Food and Drug Administration says the problem is that we still don’t have enough information to know whether these products present unknown safety and efficacy concerns, and on Wednesday, the agency asked manufacturers to provide scientific data for three active ingredients: alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol), isopropyl alcohol and benzalkonium chloride. They are looking for information that the ingredients are safe, effective and reduce bacteria on skin. The FDA’s request also applies to hand wipes.

The FDA emphasized that it does not mean it believes the products are ineffective or unsafe, and it is not asking for them to be removed from store shelves.

The FDA expressed particular interest in information about repeated exposure and use by pregnant women and children.

–The Washington Post