Spring 2017

Antibacterial action

A U of M researcher's work leads to a ban on the sale of soap containing triclosan

Professor William Arnold's study of the presence of triclosan and its derivatives at the bottom of Minnesota lakes prompted the state Legislature to ban the sale of soaps and body washes containing the substance starting January 1, 2017. A federal ban goes into effect in September. See what Arnold discovered about how the agent gets into the environment:


  • Triclosan was patented in 1964 and began appearing in products in the 1970s.
  • In 1987, Dial Corporation introduced the first liquid soap containing triclosan.
  • By 2001, triclosan was used in 76 percent of commercial liquid hand soaps. In 2013, the FDA stated there was insufficient evidence to show triclosan-based soap is more effective at preventing illness than regular soap.
  • Triclosan is still being used. The federal ban applies only to commercial soaps and body washes. 
  • It does not apply to hand sanitizers, wipes, antibacterial soaps used in health care settings, and other products.