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FDA Wants Tighter Rules on Antibacterial Soaps, Body Washes

Makers would have to prove they're safe and effective

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The proposed rule does not require that these soaps be taken off the market now. The agency has been considering the issue since 2005 and this is not something that is going to happen immediately, Kweder said. She added that the agency hopes to issue its final rule by September 2016.

In the meantime, people should continue to be diligent about washing their hands, particularly at this time of year to help protect against the spread of colds and flu. If soap and water aren't available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol should be used, the FDA said.

Several doctors said they were heartened by the FDA's proposal.

"There is no link between antibacterial products and a decline in infection rates," said Dr. Luz Fonacier, head of the allergy section at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. "Simply washing thoroughly with plain soap is sufficient to reduce bacteria and is effective against viruses.

"However, there are risks and disadvantages on the use of antibacterial products, including soaps and body wash, such as the possibility of development of antibiotic resistance," she added.

Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor with the Departments of Population Health, Environmental Medicine and Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said: "Given our emerging understanding of chemicals as hormone disruptors, this is a remarkable and positive step toward protecting children. Given suggestive evidence associating triclosan exposure with allergies and concerns about promoting antibiotic resistance, there is little justification for widespread use of triclosan when soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers are available."

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