Good news for public health and water quality from Minnesota this week. By June of this year, state agencies and institutions will no longer be buying soaps and cleaning products containing the pesticide triclosan.
Governor Mark Dayton made the shift with an executive order signed Monday. The new policy — the first of its kind in the country — comes in response to a combination of strong science and public concern about the chemical's prevalence and harms.
Earlier this year, researchers reported widespread triclosan contamination of Minnesota lakes, adding urgency to ongoing efforts of local groups such as Friends of the Mississippi River to curb use of this anti-microbial pesticide.
Signaling concerns about exposure to the chemical, a statement from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) describes triclosan as an "endocrine disrupting compound" believed to contribute to antibiotic resistance with links to other health and environmental problems.
This is information is not new. In 1972, the Food and Drug Administration flagged concerns about the health and environmental effects of the chemical in consumer products, but the agency has yet to take action. However, as the New York Times reported more than a year ago, some companies are voluntarily removing the chemical from their products due to growing public concern.
Cathy Moeger, MPCA's sustainability manager, explained that Minnesota state agencies will use their collective buying power to build the market for safer soaps and cleaning products:
"By purchasing items without triclosan, state agencies are doing their part to keep this harmful chemical out of Minnesota waters."
Congratulations to Minnesota policymakers on this landmark decision, and to the local groups and scientists whose work made the decision possible!
Note: Our partners at Beyond Pesticides provide additional resources and information on triclosan, including a list of common products containing the pesticide and a model resolution for local governments, school districts or institutions.