Chemical used in many personal care products is believed to be harming aquatic ecosystems of Great Lakes.

Triclosan, a harmful chemical found in some hand soaps and personal care products, is already banned in one Great Lakes state – Minnesota.

Sen. Tim Kennedy outlined plans Tuesday to get triclosan off of store shelves in New York at a morning meeting with reporters at Gallagher Pier.

Buffeted by gusty winds off of Lake Erie, Kennedy announced legislation he’s introducing in the state Senate to ban the chemical in household consumer products.

“We need to protect our Great Lakes and water supplies for future generations,” Kennedy said. “We have an obligation to protect them.”

The chemical is an anti-microbial additive that’s found in hand soaps, dishwashing liquid and toothpaste. Suspected as an endocrine-disrupting chemical in humans, triclosan is also believed to be harming aquatic ecosystems by bypassing wastewater treatment plants and entering fresh water bodies like the Great Lakes.

Triclosan, which can break down into multiple dioxins when exposed to sunlight, also give rise to resistant bacteria.

“Triclosan has been surrounded by controversy for decades but it has never been regulated,” said Jill Jedlicka, the executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. “It is a persistent organic pollutant.”

A recent study in Minnesota showed triclosan was getting into smaller inland lakes in that state as well as Lake Superior. There’s insufficient data to show the degree triclosan is affecting other Great Lakes like Lake Erie, however, because there are greater population centers around the lake, it is suspected the chemical may be in even higher quantities, according to a report on the issue published in the News last month.

Brian Smith, associate executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, joined Jedlicka and Kennedy in supporting the ban.

“When we wash our hands or brush our teeth, we don’t expect we’re contributing toxic pollutants to our Great Lakes,” Smith said. “Clean hands and clean teeth don’t have to mean polluted water.”

When asked of the prospects of success at getting such a ban passed in the Senate – a chamber which still has yet to vote on a similar bill to ban microbeads in consumer products – Kennedy accused Senate majority leadership of purposefully holding up vital “common sense” environmental legislation for political reasons.

“It’s shameful,” Kennedy said. “It’s obnoxious they haven’t done so. The public is all for it.”

email: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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