Minnesota bans antibacterial chemical in soap

Minnesota bans antibacterial chemical in soap

Basic hygienic actions such as washing your hands and brushing your teeth should promote health by keeping your body germ free. However, since many these hygienic products contain chemicals, bacteria have been able to survive and thrive.

Minnesota is the first state to ban one of these chemicals, triclosan, which is an anti-bacterium ingredient, found commonly in soaps, body washes, toothpaste, and deodorant. The bill signed by Gov. Mark Dayton last Friday, will not be in effect until January 2017.

Although triclosan has not been proven to be harmful for you, developing studies show that the chemical could cause hormone disruption in lab animals, affecting reproduction and development.

A previous study published in Nature by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital uncovered that triclosan creates a resistant environment where mutated bacteria survives. Triclosan was created as a surgical scrub for those in the medical field, and also was used in pesticides. These disinfectants have been linked to an increased occurance of asthma in nurses who are regularly exposed. More recently, the chemical is found in just about anything labeled “antibacterial,” such as kitchen cutting boards, and even socks. Its purpose is to kill bacteria, fungus, and prevent odors.

Antibacterial soaps make up a $450 million market in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration and the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology both agree that using the word “antibacterial” on these products are just a marketing illusion. Purell and other hand sanitizers do not contain triclosan, but rather alcohol, which kills instead of weakens germs.

In 2010, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that triclosan was found in the urine of 75 percent of our population. It is believed that there is a rise of triclosan in the environment because of overuse and misuse.

In 2013, researchers from Loyola University in Chicago found that natural levels of bacteria in the water was altered because of the triclosan, causing algae to die in rapid numbers.

“There was significant correlation between sediment TCS [triclosan] concentration and the proportion of cultivable benthic bacteria that were resistant to TCS, demonstrating that the levels of TCS present in these streams was affecting the native communities,” the study stated.

Tests have shown that triclosan remains in the environment for a long time. This could cause damage to our ecosystem, as frogs and other species will not be able to survive. Scientists found harmful effects on the endocrine system in bullfrogs from the chemical. In 2009, every bottlenose dolphin that was tested in South Carolina and approximately one-quarter in Florida had triclosan in their blood. Consequentially, the chemical is affecting the food web.

A study also published last year by the University of Minnesota found triclosan in lakes. Furthermore, when in the water, the chemical had the ability to break down into dioxins that could be harmful for your health.

Triclosan is regulated by three federal agencies: The FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They have not been able to established rules for its use. With Minnesota being the first to ban the chemical, it is believed that hygienic manufacturing companies will stop using the chemical before 2017 regardless.

It is recommended that good old fashion soap and water is the best way to keep your hands germ free. The CDC recommended washing your hands frequently to ward off bacteria, but the soaps that are offered in public bathrooms usually contain triclosan. When you can, always use all-natural soap or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which kill 99.9 percent of germs listed by the FDA.

Some essential oils also contain natural antibacterial ingredients, such as essential oil from the thyme plant. Thyme contains more antibacterial properties than the commonly used soap. Essential oils of the citrus variety, such as lemongrass, grapefruit, and lime, contain antibacterial, anti-fungal, and sometimes antiviral properties.

Vinegar is a non-toxic alternative to house cleaning products. Although it is not as effective has harsh chemical cleaners, vinegar’s acid properties kill bacteria and viruses. It will not however kill some types of salmonella, which can be found in the kitchen from raw meat.

Ammonia-based cleaning products are also eco-friendly, but they are not registered with the EPA. Ammonia products will kill salmonella and E.coli, but not staphylococcus bacteria.

When in doubt, read labels on your cleaning products. With the passing of this bill, other states will most likely follow suit. Crest toothpaste already began advertising its product as being triclosan-free. Johnson & Johnson also is reported to remove the chemical for all of its products by next year.

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