Wildlife and humans have won a small victory, at least in Minnesota. The state, which boasts one of the leading state departments of health in the country, decided to ban the antimicrobial chemical triclosan from soaps and other products because of concerns regarding its deleterious impact on the environment, animals, and ultimately, human health.
Triclosan has been earning a progressively worse rap in recent years after arriving on the scene a few decades ago as the great antiseptic hope. It does kill bacteria and fungi and other microbes efficiently, but whether the extra killing over soap and water means anything to anyone is uncertain at best. Evidence does support its beneficial role over fluoride alone in toothpaste as a way to avoid cavities and gum diseases, but that’s it.
The problem is that its side effects are many and quite varied. Minnesota cited the risk of “hormone disruption” from triclosan as the rationale for its action. The hormone disruptor, also called an endocrine disruptor, is a slightly new-age concept coined by environmentalists and embraced now by most scientists. Chemicals—and there are many—that are viewed as capable of perturbing several endocrine systems, including the thyroid, the adrenals, the ovaries, and the testicles, in humans and other animals, are considered “hormone disruptors.” A list of the 12 most horrible was recently released. It included some veteran bad guys such as dioxin and lead.