Speed Reads

Bar soap

Which group will freak out first about Minnesota's antibacterial soap ban?

CC by: Paul Swansen

Last week, Minnesota's legislature passed, and Gov. Mark Dayton (D) signed, the country's first ban of triclosan in most retail products. What's triclosan? The active ingredient in about 75 percent of antibacterial soaps and body washes in the U.S. It's also in dish and laundry detergent, and even some toothpastes. The ban doesn't take effect until 2017, but state Sen. John Marty (D), one of the bill's lead sponsors, said Monday he expects the chemical to be phased out before then.

So what's wrong with triclosan? "Studies have raised concerns that it can disrupt hormones critical for reproduction and development, at least in lab animals, and contribute to the development of resistant bacteria," explains The Associated Press' Steve Karnowski. On top of that, there's no evidence that it gets our hands any cleaner. Still, Americans don't like being told they can't buy something — remember the flap over incandescent light bulb regulations? — and triclosan is produced in somebody's congressional district.

Once this ban starts spreading to other states, some group or lawmaker is going to call foul. It's practically the American way. Here's a better idea: Take a few seconds to learn how to properly wash your hands with regular soap.