On May 16, 2014, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a bill that bans all products containing triclosan, an antibacterial agent found in many household agents and personal-use products. Minnesota is the first state to ban this chemical, known to disrupt hormones in ways that harm humans and the environment.
The Minnesota ban does not take full effect until January 1, 2017. In the meantime, the chemical will be phased out of the state’s consumer market gradually. Minnesota Senator John Marty, one of the sponsors of the ban bill, expects manufacturers to voluntarily remove the chemical from product lines, replacing them with safer formulations. He also expects other states to ban or limit sales of triclosan-containing products in coming years.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates as many as 75% of all antibacterial products sold in the US contain triclosan. Most of them are soaps and body washes but skin care products and cosmetics contain the ingredient as well. The Hello Kitty product line, marketed to children, consists of several products that contain triclosan. So do some dog shampoos.
The triclosan ban is based on scientific findings that include:
- Animal studies that indicate triclosan disrupts hormones in mammals, leading to developmental disorders and impairment of reproductive systems in males and females.
- The chemical is thought to contribute to the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria that cause life-threatening diseases such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
- According to the FDA, there is no evidence that triclosan-laced products do a better job than simply washing with ordinary soap and water to minimize the spread of disease.
- Evidence of triclosan has been discovered in the waterways of Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where it diminishes water quality. Its presence in the water threatens the health of the fish and wildlife that live in or near the state’s extensive natural water supply.
In addition to the Hello Kitty product line, triclosan is found in products from Avon, Revlon, Old Spice, Clearasil, Gillette, Right Guard, Edge, Vaseline, Noxzema, Suave, Lever, Softsoap, Colgate, pHisoderm, Dial, Dawn, and Lysol. Pet Gold and 8-in-1 dog shampoos contain triclosan, too.
The US Department of Health & Human Services maintains a “Household Products Database” that lists products that contain triclosan. The database includes a searchable A-to-Z list of all products approved for sale in the US, their manufacturers, ingredients, and their health effects. Some labels list triclosan by its chemical name rather than simply as triclosan; the database includes a full list of these chemical names.