Minnesota agencies will stop buying soaps with triclosanMinnesota state agencies will stop buying hand soaps, dish soaps and laundry cleaning products that contain triclosan to reduce the buildup of the antibacterial chemical in the environment.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota state agencies will stop buying hand soaps, dish soaps and laundry cleaning products that contain triclosan to reduce the buildup of the antibacterial chemical in the environment.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has announced that the state will stop buying the products as current contracts expire and their use will be phased out by June.
The decision was based on a 2011 executive order by Gov. Mark Dayton demanding that state agencies use the most sustainable efforts in all of their activities to reduce state government’s impact on the environment.
Triclosan is the most common ingredient in so-called antibacterial soaps and other cleaning products. Health and environmental experts say the chemical not only isn’t needed for good hygiene but also causes damage in the environment as an endocrine disrupter.
A University of Minnesota study published in January in the journal Environmental Science and Technology said increasing amounts of triclosan were found in the sediment in eight Minnesota lakes and rivers, including Lake Superior, the Duluth harbor, Shagawa Lake in Ely, Lake Pepin, Lake St. Croix, Lake Winona and East Lake Gemini, all of which receive treated sewage effluent.
Triclosan was not found in Little Wilson Lake in the Superior National Forest, the control lake in the experiment, which sees no sewage outflow.
In some cases, high levels of triclosan have been found to reduce sperm in male fish and cause them to develop female physical characteristics. Studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have found triclosan can hinder cell growth in mammals and slow swimming in fathead minnows.
When triclosan passes through sewage treatment plants, it can combine with chlorine and morph into dioxins when exposed to sunlight in the receiving lake or river.
The Minnesota House Environment Finance Committee planned to hold a hearing on the issue today. So far, there is no legislation pending at the state level to ban triclosan from consumer products. But Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, chairwoman of the committee, has added the issue to the committee’s discussion items.
The state’s buying decisions also will affect some local governments, school districts and other agencies that piggyback on the state to get better prices on large-volume orders of cleaning supplies, said Cathy Moeger, sustainability director for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
In addition to hand soap, triclosan is found in some toothpaste, cleaning products, fabric, toys, kitchenware and industrial pesticides.
Moeger said consumers have been duped into thinking they need soaps with antibacterial agents to kill germs. The Minnesota Department of Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and American Medical Association say there is no evidence that triclosan provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.
“You don’t need triclosan to get rid of bacteria. It’s the physical act of washing your hands and the water that does the work,’’ she told the News Tribune, adding that consumers can easily find products without triclosan simply by avoiding those that claim to be antibacterial.
Hand sanitizer with alcohol usually does not contain triclosan, she noted.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are currently studying the chemical’s potential danger to humans, animals and the environment.
Triclosan was patented in 1964 and entered the market in the 1970s.
In August, major soap manufacturer Johnson & Johnson said it will phase out triclosan and other chemicals that could be harmful to people or the environment.