The FTC said it had sent e-mail warnings to sites that say they can shield citizens from anthrax, smallpox and other possible bioterrorist weapons.
The agency (www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/health/frdheal.htm) said it found the touted products during a concerted "surf" session of 200 sites.
"This marketing targets people worried about the prospect of exposure to lethal biological or chemical weapons," said Howard Beales, FTC’s director of consumer protection, in a statement.
"The FTC is aware of no scientific basis for any of the self-treatment alternatives being marketed on the Internet."
The FTC said various state attorneys general and the US Food and Drug Administration is policing bogus anti-bioterrorism websites.
"The events of Sept 11 have heightened our fears and vulnerability to scams," said Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery.
Added Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire: "State attorneys general will not stand by while website operators capitalise on public fears by selling products that offer no protection."
The FTC said it has reviewed such items as mail sterilisers, biohazard test kits, dietary supplements such as colloidal silver, zinc mineral water, thyme, and oregano oil as supposed "treatments" for bioterrorist attacks.
The agency said it would follow up targeted sites to see if bogus claims are removed. Those that refuse to comply, the FTC said, face possible prosecution "vigorously and promptly," Beales said.
The agency warned that the Web may not be the best place to turn to if someone suspects they have been the object of a bioterrorism assault.
"Our best advice for consumers: Consult your physician immediately if you believe you may have been exposed to anthrax or any other biological agents," Beales said.
As far as the websites go, Beales said, "essentially, these operators need to shut down these areas of their sites or face prosecution." —