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Minnesota is believed to be one of the first state governments to stop buying products containing triclosan, an antibacterial commonly used in soap and cosmetics. Through its combined buying power, the state purchases about $1 million worth of cleaning products a year.
While there is uncertainty about whether triclosan is hazardous to humans, there also is no evidence that hand soaps and/or hand sanitizers containing triclosan are better than regular soap and water at preventing infections. Laboratory studies have found that triclosan may disrupt hormones, interfere with muscle function and promote the growth of stronger bacteria. In addition, there is growing concern suggesting a buildup in the environment may present risks to wildlife.
Triclosan also is known as 2,4,4'-trichloro-2'-hydroxydiphenyl ether, 5-chloro-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy) phenol, trichloro-2'-hydroxydiphenyl ether, CH-3565, Lexol 300, Irgasan.
In the environment, triclosan becomes a dioxin, a family of environmental contaminants linked to a variety of health risks, from cancer to hormone disruption, and which persist in the environment for years. They once came largely from industrial sources such as paper pulp mills and garbage incinerators, but increasingly stringent regulations have greatly reduced their emissions.
The recent study of triclosan in eight Minnesota lakes, conducted by scientists at the University of Minnesota and the Science Museum of Minnesota, found that triclosan and the dioxins it forms have increased in sediment while other kinds have decreased. In short, even though the water-treatment process removes most of the triclosan, antibacterial products are now the primary source of dioxins in the lakes and rivers.
There is growing concern about Triclosan and its impact on humans and the environment. This recent action by the State of Minnesota is the latest development for a substance that is undergoing continuing scrutiny in the United States and in other countries as well.