Your dish soap may keep germs at bay, but one specific ingredient is being called into question for its safety. Last week, Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill making Minnesota the first state to ban triclosan in consumer hygiene products, reports the AP. The ban is set to go into effect by 2017.
Triclosan can be found in products such as soap, toothpaste, and body wash. And according to the FDA, it's used in about 75 percent of antibacterial liquid soups. Animal studies have shown that the ingredient can alter how hormones affect the body. The FDA is currently reviewing evidence regarding triclosan's safety, but for the time being, there's insufficient data to know whether or not it's harmful to humans.
On another note: the FDA does report that products containing triclosan aren't necessarily more beneficial for hygiene than simple soap and water. "Triclosan doesn't target viruses that cause infectious illnesses like influenza," says Allison Aiello, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It's not really useful or beneficial more so than regular soap."
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Plus, using triclosan in antibacterial products may promote antibiotic-resistant bacteriaÃ¢â‚¬”some cases have shown resistant staphylococcusÃ¢â‚¬”if it's overused, says Martin Blaser, M.D., a professor in the departments of medicine and microbiology at New York University. The bill won't go into effect for another three years, but Senator John Marty predicts most companies may remove triclosan from its products sooner than that. Why? It's probably because of triclosan's lack of known benefits and proven environmental issues (like water pollution), says Aiello. However, if a product containing triclosan wants to stay on the market after the ban, it may apply for FDA approval to be exempt, according to a representative at the Minnesota Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
Although the FDA doesn't recommend avoiding triclosan yet, Aiello suggests steering clear of it from now on. Labels must explicitly state the ingredients according to the law, says Blaser, so just watch out for it the next time you're shopping for cleaning supplies. For on-the-go cleanliness, hand sanitizers are usually alcohol-based, which has been proven to kill viruses and bacteria, Aiello adds.
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