Based on health and environmental concerns, Minnesota has become the first state to prohibit the use of germ-killing chemical triclosan in soaps, hand sanitizers and other hygiene products. The new regulation, due to take effect in 2017, will greatly impact consumer hygiene companies, as triclosan is used in about 75% of antibacterial liquid soaps sold in the U.S., according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
While the chemical hasn’t been shown to be hazardous to humans, studies have found that it can disrupt hormones critical for reproduction in lab animals. Scientists also have raised concerns about the chemical contributing to the development of resistant bacteria. A University of Minnesota study published last year found increasing levels of triclosan in the sediments of several lakes, noting that the chemical can break down into potentially harmful dioxins.
It appears unlikely the ban will significantly affect supplier firms. Mel Ellis, president of HumphreyLine (asi/62050), said most suppliers in the ad specialty industry are using benzalkonium chloride, not triclosan, in the hand sanitizers they offer. “We dodged a bullet with this one,” he said. Brandon McKay, CEO of SnugZ USA (asi/88060), confirmed that his company does not use triclosan in any of its products. “We feel sure of our manufacturing practices and the blends of products we offer since we manufacture all of our goods in-house,” McKay said.
Keeping track of all the federal and state regulations being passed does remain something of a hot topic, though. “We’re spending $250,000 a year on regulatory compliance and product safety,” Ellis said. “It’s an incredible burden on small business.”
Minnesota State Sen. John Marty, one of the lead sponsors of the bill prohibiting triclosan, expects other states and the federal government to act on the issue as well. Last year, the FDA announced it would be revisiting the safety of triclosan and other germ-killing ingredients. An FDA rule proposed in December would require manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to demonstrate their products are safe for daily use and more effective than plain soap and water.