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Published January 22, 2013, 09:07 AM

Common anti-bacterial compound found in Minnesota waterways

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A compound found in anti-bacterial soaps, cosmetics, toothpastes and other products is increasing in Minnesota lakes and rivers, according to research by the University of Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A compound found in anti-bacterial soaps, cosmetics, toothpastes and other products is increasing in Minnesota lakes and rivers, according to research by the University of Minnesota.

The research, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, said triclosan is being found more often in Minnesota waters. University scientists and researchers from the Science Museum of Minnesota's St. Croix Watershed Research Station studied sediment from eight lakes of various sizes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined the evidence is insufficient to recommend limiting the use of the antibiotic compound, but the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency continue to study its effects.

In addition, researchers found an increasing amount of triclosan derivatives that form when the compound is exposed to chlorine during the wastewater treatment process. When exposed to sunlight, triclosan and its derivatives form dioxins that could harm the environment.

The compound, introduced to the market in the early 1970s, is found in many products, including soaps and body washes, toothpastes, cosmetics, clothing, dishwashing liquid and kitchenware.

Beyond its use in toothpaste to prevent gingivitis, the FDA has found no evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes is more beneficial than washing with regular soap and water.

"It's important for people to know that what they use in their house every day can have an impact in the environment far beyond their home," said the study's lead author William Arnold, a civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota. "Consumers need to know that they may be using products with triclosan. People should read product labels to understand what they are buying."

The Canadian government determined the compound was harmful enough to the environment to warrant regulation last year following a request for a ban on triclosan in household products from the Canadian Medical Association.

Last August, Johnson & Johnson said it would phase out triclosan and a host of other chemicals that could be harmful to people or the environment.

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