Minnesota's triclosan ban: Expert explains why it's the right move
There's nothing wrong with plain-old soap and water, Dr. Colette Cozean says.
After we reported on Gov. Mark Dayton signing the nation's first triclosan ban into law (read the full backstory here), we heard from an expert who applauded the Land of 10,000 Lakes for being ahead of the curve.
Dr. Colette Cozean is a California-based medical device inventor. She's also the CEO of Zylast, a company that makes a triclosan-free hand sanitizer. But before you dismiss her as simply being a shill for her product, consider what she has to say about the benefits of old-fashioned soap and water.
"When kids are young it is actually very important for them to develop natural resistance, especially in their first five years," Cozean tells us. "So I would be very careful about putting kids in a position where they never have an opportunity to develop their own resistance. It's not bad to use soap and water."
What she's implying, of course, is that the 75 percent of antibacterial soaps with triclosan do a more effective job than soap and water at killing germs over an extended period of time, but only if you wash your hands for about two minutes.
"There is proof -- it's more than anecdotal, but not rising to the level of strong scientific evidence -- that triclosan does cause resistance, for the simple reason that triclosan does not work immediately," Cozean says. "So if you send your child home to wash his hands with antibacterial soap that has triclosan in it, it can take up to two minutes to kill 99.999 percent of bacteria. Well, anything left after that becomes resistant, and as we know, children never wash their hands for that long."
Concerns about resistance aside, Cozean points out that triclosan "has been associated with changing hormonal content in the body."
"There's no proof that it's good or bad, but it is concerning, and it penetrates the skin," she says.
Those considerations, combined with environmental concerns about triclosan contributing to the formation of dioxins that can potentially be harmful to humans, leads Cozean to conclude that bans like the one going into effect in Minnesota in 2017 "should've been done a long time ago."
"There are other better choices out there," Cozean says. "If there was nothing else out there, it wouldn't make sense, but there are a lot of good choices in the marketplace."
Cozean believes one of those "better choices" is her product, Zylast, which is available in Minnesota.
Zylast kills virtually all germs after just 15 seconds of washing, compared to roughly one minute for soap and water and two for triclosan products, Cozean says. And since it's made up of nothing but natural ingredients, it doesn't raise the same sort of environmental and health concerns triclosan products do.
Asked why anybody would use triclosan antibacterial soaps given that they don't kill germs even as quickly as tried-and-true soap and water, Cozean points out that triclosan products "have a very important feature soap and water doesn't have, and that is persistence."
(For more, click to page two.)
"So if you wash with soap and water or alcohol, the very next thing you touch, bacteria gets on your hands," Cozean says. "So if you're a health care professional and touch a doorknob, your hands are affected immediately, while if you use triclosan your hands are protected for about 30 minutes." (Cozean says her product represents the best of both worlds by combining persistence with quick germ-killing capability.)
Maintaining that level of cleanliness isn't a concern for most people, of course.
"Sanitization is very important when you need long-term protection, but when you aren't having a disease outbreak, allowing kids to develop natural resistance is a wise thing," Cozean says.
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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