Minnesota bans triclosan; cites health and environmental risks

Photo by Lucille Pine; Flickr
Photo by Lucille Pine; Flickr

Minnesota has recently become the first state in the nation to ban triclosan, a chemical compound with antibacterial properties that is used in a wide range of products. The ban will be implemented in 2017 in order to give producers time to phase out the compound.

The ban is in response to several studies suggesting that triclosan may have harmful effects on human health. It has been linked to increased occurrence of allergies, endocrine disruption, and impaired muscle contraction.

Although small doses of triclosan should have little to no effect on an individual, consumers are exposed to the compound frequently through common products such as hand sanitizer, soap, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Those with particular genetic variations may also be at higher risk.

Additionally, the cumulative quantities of triclosan that are washed down the drain may have negative environmental consequences. It is toxic to certain species of algae and bacteria, and recent research suggests that it may hinder sewage treatment processes.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently consider triclosan to be hazardous, but is currently investigating the compound in light of new research.


Illinois bans microbeads; other states may follow

Atlantic Salmon. Photo via Eric Kilby; Flickr
Atlantic Salmon. Photo via Eric Kilby; Flickr

Illinois has become the first state in the nation to ban microbeads, the small plastic particles found in many soaps and skin care products.

Recent research found that most microbeads are too small to be detected by water filtration systems. This allows them to reach lakes and rivers, where they attract pollutants in the surrounding water. They are then consumed by fish, who confuse the plastic beads with fish eggs. If these fish are then consumed by humans or other wildlife, the toxins are able to spread throughout the food chain.

Researcher Sherri Mason found up to one million of the tiny pellets per square kilometer in areas of the Great Lakes.

Illinois is requiring manufacturers to phase out microbeads by the end of 2017. Some companies are already investigating biodegradable alternatives.

Illinois governor Pat Quinn hopes that the rest of the nation will follow Illinois’s example. There is a similar bill pending in New York, and legislators are taking action in Minnesota, Ohio, and California as well.

Concerned consumers should avoid purchasing products listing polyethylene or polypropylene among their ingredients.