Proctor & Gamble (P&G), maker of well-known household and personal care brands such as CoverGirl, Tide, Crest and Ivory, announced plans last month to eliminate the use of triclosan and diethyl phthalate (DEP) from all its products by 2014.
P&G joins Johnson & Johnson among corporations that have now pledged to eliminate the use of triclosan. FMR congratulates P&G for their leadership in removing triclosan from the consumer marketplace.
This is an important victory for the Mississippi River and public health. This comes on the heels of Governor Dayton’s March 4th executive order banning state agencies from purchasing products that contain triclosan.
Triclosan is an antibacterial product developed in the 1960s and introduced in 1972 for use in health care facilities. Triclosan has since been added to a wide variety of household products, including liquid hand and dish soap, toothpaste, deodorant, fabric, kitchenware, and cosmetics.
Humans can be exposed to triclosan through skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation, as well as through contaminated drinking water. Human triclosan exposure is now common: It has been found in humane urine, breast milk, and blood around the globe, and is now present in the urine of 75% of Americans over age five.
Studies indicate that triclosan exposure can lead to allergy susceptibility in humans, and present risks for healthy fetal development in pregnant women. Exposure to triclosan has been shown to interfere with thyroid and reproductive systems in laboratory studies, and may have other endocrine-disrupting and neuro-developmental impacts as well.
The most concerning aspect of triclosan is its potential for dioxin formation in the environment. As triclosan moves through the wastewater treatment process and into the river, it is exposed to sunlight and chlorine, which cause it to transform into dangerous dioxins and other carcinogens. Dioxins are potent, long lasting carcinogens that work their way up the food chain over time.
As a result, since triclosan was released onto the market, we’ve seen a 200-300% increase in triclosan-derived dioxins in Lake Pepin sediments; the lake collects upstream wastewater, including wastewater from the Twin Cities.
The Food and Drug Administration states that triclosan has not been conclusively proven to improve the effectiveness of these products, a claim suggested by many manufacturers of anti-bacterial products containing the ingredient.
According to the FDA: “At this time, FDA does not have evidence that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water.”
The Minnesota Department of Health recommends against using antibacterial products in most home applications because they may contribute to the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria.
P&G’s announcement is a big step forward in protecting Minnesota’s surface waters from triclosan-derived dioxin pollution. However, much more work remains to be done.
Legislation phasing out the use of triclosan in consumer products in Minnesota failed to pass the State Senate in 2013. Many consumer products that contain triclosan remain on the shelves. Further studies on the impacts of triclosan on fish and wildlife are necessary.
Luckily, Minnesotans can all do their part for the river by purchasing triclosan-free products. Toothpastes, deodorants, soaps, and many other products are available in triclosan-free forms.
Consumers concerned about using hand and body soaps with triclosan should wash with regular soap and water, or consider alcohol-based sanitizers, if desired.