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Antibacterial Soaps and Body Washes: FAQ

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"My opinion is, there is so little benefit that any risk is unacceptable,'' he says of the antibacterial liquid soaps.

Triclocarban has mixed reviews, Hammock says. While some research has suggested that triclocarban could cause cancer, other research has found it could be an anti-inflammatory, which would be helpful, Hammock says.

Bottom line? "I don't think there is any data to support that [the antibacterial products] are better than soap and water," says Aaron Glatt, MD, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Q: What does the industry say?

The products are both safe and effective, says Brian Sansoni, a spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute. It issued a joint statement on Monday with the Personal Care Products Council in response to the proposed rule.

The statement reads, in part, that the industry ''has submitted to the FDA in-depth data showing that antibacterial soaps are more effective in killing germs when compared with non-antibacterial soap."

Two dozen studies have found that the products work to kill germs, it says.

The statement did not mention hormone disruption.

Q: What is the timeline for the FDA's proposed rule?

Public comments will be invited on the proposed rule until June 2014, followed by a time period to give companies a chance to submit new data and then a rebuttal period.

The FDA hopes to issue the final rule by September 2016.

Q: Does this proposed rule effectively ban these products?

According to the FDA, by the time the proposed rule is final, manufacturers who haven't provided convincing data must change the product’s ingredients or remove the antibacterial claim.

Q: Until a final decision is made, what's the best advice for people now? Should they buy or not buy antibacterial soaps?

Glatt says there is no need to throw away anything you may have at home now. But he suggests that people not buy antibacterial soaps and body washes going forward: ''This is not a smart use of people's money at this point in time."

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