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Minnesota Bans Hazardous Antibacterial (Triclosan) in Consumer Personal Care Cleaning Products

(Beyond Pesticides, May 22, 2014) The highly toxic and controversial antibacterial/antimicrobial pesticide triclosan has been banned from consumer personal care cleaning products in the state of Minnesota by an act of the state legislature. This public health measure, SF 2192, signed by the Governor last week, states that “no person shall offer for retail sale in Minnesota any cleaning product that that contains triclosan and is used by consumers for sanitizing or hand and body cleansing.” The ban, along with the growing number of companies voluntarily removing triclosan from their products, responds to the concerns that environmental groups, led by Beyond Pesticides, have expressed on the health and environmental impacts of triclosan, which includes cross-resistance to bacterial infections with antibiotics. Over the last week the Minnesota legislature has been on a roll in defending the environment and human health from the toxic effects of synthetic pesticides, including the enactment of labeling legislation, HF 2798, which will inform consumers about bee-friendly plants. 

The triclosan ban legislation, which will take effect on January 1, 2017, was signed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on May 16, 2014 after it had passed both the House and Senate the week previously. One of the legislation’s lead sponsors, state Senator John Marty, predicted Monday that the odds are good that most manufacturers will phase out triclosan by then as a result of this effort and other marketplace pressure.

“While this is an effort to ban triclosan from one of the 50 states, I think it will have a greater impact than that,” Mr. Marty was quoted saying in a CBC news piece.

Minnesota has been a leader in the fight to remove triclosan from consumer products. In 2013, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced that state agencies were ordered by Governor Dayton to stop buying products that contain triclosan. The administrative ban went into effect last June. The state government, about 100 school districts, and local governments together currently buy about $1 million worth of cleaning products annually through joint purchasing contracts.

These policy changes in Minnesota come after a recent study showed triclosan toxicants accumulating in the bottom of lakes and rivers in Minnesota. Scientists tested eight sediment samples from freshwater lakes across Minnesota, including Lake Superior and found triclosan in all of the sediment tested.

Triclosan has been used for over 30 years in the U.S., mostly in a medical setting, but more recently in consumer products. Its original uses were confined mostly to health care settings, having  been introduced as a surgical scrub in 1972. Over the last decade, there has been a rapid increase in the use of triclosan-containing consumer products. A marketplace study in 2000 by Eli Perencevich, M.D. and colleagues found that over 75% of liquid soaps and nearly 30% of bar soaps (45% of all the soaps on the market) contain some type of antibacterial agent. Triclosan is the most common agent found, and was discovered in nearly half of all commercial soaps. Other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human breast milk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found triclosan to be present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 50% since 2004. Unaffected by this legislation are the extensive triclosan uses, under the name microban, in a wide range of consumer products made of plastic and textiles, from hair brushes, cutting boards, computer keyboard to socks and underwear. FDA has oversight over cosmetic (personal care cleaning) products containing triclosan and EPA has jurisdiction over non-cosmetic consumer products.

Beyond Pesticides has generated extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan and its cousin triclocarban. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function.

Several companies have begun to phase out triclosan as the public becomes more aware of the health and environmental concerns that surround the chemical. Additionally, municipal utility districts have raised concerns because of equipment and cost associated with removing triclosan from community waste water.  Johnson & JohnsonProcter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for a couple years now. Avon joined these companies earlier in 2014, announcing  it will begin phasing the chemical out of “the few” products in its line that include it.  Avon cites customer concern as its reason for reformulating.

Groups like Beyond Pesticides have been calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its counterpart, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (which regulates non-cosmetic products with triclosan) for years to immediately ban triclosan from consumer products, citing endocrine disruption, and other human health concerns. Last December, FDA announced it will now require manufacturers to prove their antibacterial soaps are safe and effective. The agency is accepting public comments until June 16, 2014. Submit your comment here.

EPA also published in 2013 a final rule to revise and update use patterns and data requirements for antimicrobial pesticides. The new rule has eleven new data requirements for these chemicals. Even though this rule points regulators in the right direction on further evaluations of antimicrobial pesticides, data gaps still remain. Earlier, Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch had petitioned FDA and EPA to ban triclosan from consumer products under their respective jurisdictions, arguing that there is sufficient data on hazards and exposure to warrant severe regulation restrictions.

Beyond Pesticides urges concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. Encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

See the Beyond Pesticides’ video, Triclosan 101, with Allison Aiello, PhD discussing the antibacterial ingredient triclosan, its efficacy, and potential health impacts as part of the Pesticides and Health Panel at “Healthy Communities: Green solutions for safe environments,” Beyond Pesticides’ 30th National Pesticide Forum, March 30-31, 2012, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

For more general and background information, see Beyond Pesticides’ triclosan page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: CBC News


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