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Debate over safety of triclosan sparks new bills in region; Minnesota first state to ban it

by Kate Tormey ~ July/August 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
As federal regulators take a closer look at the safety of triclosan, a substance found in many personal-care products, lawmakers in at least two Midwestern states are making moves to keep the substance out of homes and waterways.
Triclosan is an antibacterial ingredient commonly used in personal-care products such as liquid soap, toothpaste and deodorant. Manufacturers maintain that the material is safe, and its use in consumer products is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
But controversy has erupted over whether triclosan truly is safe. Critics cite animal studies showing health effects ranging from skin irritation to disruption of reproductive hormones, and that the chemical accumulates in the body over time.
The debate over triclosan has also focused on whether the chemical affects water quality or damages aquatic ecosystems; scientific studies have identified it in underwater sediment. (The Canadian government has designated triclosan toxic to the environment.)
What’s more, some critics point out that according to the FDA, antibacterial soap has not been proven to be more effective at reducing organisms such as salmonella and E. coli. Medical experts warn, too, against the general overuse of antibacterial products and medications because they could cause common pathogens to mutate, leading to stronger, antibiotic-resistant organisms.
In response to the debate, some major manufacturers of health and beauty products (such as Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson) have voluntarily removed triclosan from some products and have pledged to stop using it altogether in the next two years.
And the FDA has proposed new rules that would require companies to submit data proving their antibacterial body cleansers are safe for daily use (or otherwise reformulate the product) and that they are more effective than regular soap (or otherwise remove “antibacterial” from the label).
Meanwhile, state legislatures around the country have considered legislation banning triclosan-containing products from store shelves.
This year, Minnesota became the first state to do so. SF 2192, which takes effect in 2017, prohibits the sale of cleaning or personal-care products containing triclosan. Last year, Gov. Mark Dayton announced that state agencies would no longer purchase such products.
Legislation banning triclosan-containing products was also considered in Iowa this year. SF 2346 would have banned the sale or manufacture of soap, hand sanitizer or toothpaste containing triclosan beginning next year. The bill did not advance.
Triclosan is just one of the chemicals that state policymakers are focusing on eliminating from common products. In Michigan and Minnesota, proposed bills call for devising lists of “chemicals of concern,” such as carcinogens, endocrine disrupters and other toxic materials.
The lists could be used to help prioritize efforts to ban chemicals and require manufacturers to disclose the presence of substances deemed highest-risk.


Brief written by Kate Tormey, staff liaison to the Midwestern Legislative Conference Health & Human Services Committee. The committee’s co-chairs are Iowa Rep. Joel Fry and Minnesota Sen. Kathy Sheran.