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Minnesota Becomes 1st State To Ban Potentially Harmful Germ Killer

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A state law going into effect Jan. 1 2017 will change the way Minnesotans buy soap.

Minnesota is the first state to ban the germ-killing chemical triclosan once commonly found in anti-bacterial soaps.

Studies found it was not any more effective than regular soap and could have adverse impacts on the environment and peoples' health.

It is a problem University of Minnesota professor Bill Arnold has spent years studying.

He said some chemicals in the sink go down the drain and eventually end up in area lakes and rivers.

"There's the potential for it to affect the ecosystem as well," Arnold said. "We looked at seven different lakes in Minnesota a couple years back and found that triclosan was accumulating in all of them in the lake sediments."

Arnold said the chemical triclosan enabled companies to market products as anti-bacterial, and it was once widely used in soaps, deodorants and toothpaste.

Studies began showing it could disrupt the body's hormones and other functions.

"Anything that said 'anti-bacterial' on it that's a liquid hand soap would have triclosan in it, or dishwashing liquids that were anti-bacterial were another big source of triclosan as well," Arnold said.

Arnold's research found it can be potentially harmful in lakes and rivers.

The findings led the state of Minnesota to ban the chemical in 2014, giving the industry until 2017 to comply.

"Soap itself kills germs," Arnold said.

The federal government followed that lead, banning 19 ingredients found in soaps and body washes because they could do more harm than good.

Companies have until September to take the products off shelves or remove the chemicals.

"The hope is over time what's there would slowly break down," Arnold said of the impacts in area lakes. "Some of the reaction products that form actually might be of greater concern than triclosan itself, so stopping that input into the environment is important."

Most major companies have already phased out the chemical.

Hand sanitizers do not contain triclosan.

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