Tag Archives: soap

Minnesota is leading the rest of country in banning germ-killer triclosan

Minnesota’s first-in-the nation ban on soaps containing the once ubiquitous germ-killer triclosan takes effect Jan. 1, but the people who spearheaded the law say it’s already having its desired effect on a national level.

The federal government caught up to Minnesota’s 2014 decision with its own ban that takes effect in September 2017. Major manufacturers have largely phased out the chemical already, with some products being marketed as triclosan-free.

And it’s an example of how changes can start at a local level.

“I wanted it to change the national situation with triclosan and it certainly has contributed to that,” said state Sen. John Marty, an author of Minnesota’s ban.

Triclosan once was widely used in anti-bacterial soaps, deodorants and even toothpaste. But studies began to show it could disrupt sex and thyroid hormones and other bodily functions, and scientists were concerned routine use could contribute to the development of resistant bacteria. And University of Minnesota research found that triclosan can break down into potentially harmful dioxins in lakes and rivers.

The group Friends of the Mississippi River and its allies in the Legislature, including Marty, got Gov. Mark Dayton to sign a ban in 2014 that gave the industry until Jan. 1, 2017, to comply.

In September, the FDA banned triclosan along with 18 other anti-bacterial chemicals from soaps nationwide, saying manufacturers had failed to show they were safe or more effective at killing germs than plain soap and water. However, the FDA allowed the use of some triclosan products such as Colgate Total toothpaste, saying it’s effective at preventing gingivitis.

Marty and Trevor Russell, the water program director for Friends of the Mississippi River, acknowledged they can’t take direct credit for the FDA’s action because that rulemaking process began in 1978, though it didn’t finalize the rule until after a legal battle with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

However, the Minnesota men hope their efforts helped turn opinions against the chemical and are confident the state’s ban helped prod manufacturers to accelerate a phase-out that some companies such as Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson had already begun.

Most major brands are now reformulated, said Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, a lobbying group. Soaps containing triclosan on store shelves are likely stocks that retailers are just using up, he said.

Russell noted he recently found Dial liquid anti-bacterial hand soap at two local Wal-Marts, two supermarkets and a Walgreens.

The industry is now submitting data to the FDA on the safety and effectiveness of the three main replacements, benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol.

“Consumers can continue to use these products with confidence, like they always have,” Sansoni said.

By going first, Russell said, Minnesota can identify any issues with implementing the ban and share it with the rest of the country.

The Minnesota Department of Health will remind consumers and businesses of the ban’s start.

Valentine’s Day – a Soap Opera occasion in Madison

Valentine’s Day is a special occasion for life partners Chuck Bauer and Chuck Beckwith – for professional as well as personal reasons. The two own and operate The Soap Opera, a retail and wholesale supplier of soaps, body oils and other personal products.

One of the oldest businesses on Madison’s State Street, The Soap Opera was launched on March 3, 1972, in response to Beckwith’s unfulfilled search for a decent hairbrush. The pair’s combination of specialty products – including a full assortment of rubber ducks – and personalized service have allowed them to carve out a successful niche in what was then an almost non-existent market.

“We’re known for helping customers create personalized gift selections and wrapping them,” said Bauer, a former Army brat whose family settled in Philadelphia.

“The Soap Opera is very service-oriented,” Beckwith agrees. “We’re old-fashioned in that way.”

The Soap Opera imports and blends many of its own oils and soaps for retail sale. Larger sizes, including soaps by the gallon and perfume oils by the half-pound, are available at wholesale prices for budding entrepreneurs who want to bottle their own lines.

The current location at 319 State St. was not The Soap Opera’s first home. Bauer and Beckwith, who was born in Mexico City and eventually settled with his family in Chicago, met as art students at UWM. The pair started in business with an old dresser strapped to roller skates that they pushed around campus and down State Street, peddling their products from the dresser drawers. Although neither has formal business training, they credit experience on the street as being their best teacher.

“The joke always was that Chuck and Chuck are playing store,” Bauer says. “But anyone who starts out selling from a blanket on the street learns his business very quickly.”

They also were early participants in gay causes, comprising two of the eight people who banded together in 1970 to form the Madison Association for Homosexual Equality. With college campuses focused on anti-war protests, being gay in Madison was a “non-event” in those days, the pair says.

“We mostly got together to plan dances and things,” Beckwith says.

However, Bauer and Beckwith continue to tap their activist roots, opening their stunning University Heights home for tours and events in support of gay and straight social causes, including benefits for Madison’s AIDS Network. They also own a former farm near New Glarus that serves as a wildlife sanctuary.

Over the decades, the pair’s enterprise has blossomed, moving from a handful of soaps to literally hundreds, along with many other products. Beckwith early on satisfied his search for a wooden-handled boar-bristled hairbrush and the store now stocks 46 different styles. “We also have 72 different lip balms,” Beckwith says.

Beckwith serves as the face of The Soap Opera, spending his time on the selling floor and interacting with customers, while Bauer operates behind the scenes tending to the business side of the enterprise. The division of duties has helped both their business and relationship to prosper through good times and bad, they say.

Valentine’s Day sales focus on gifts that can be mutually shared, such as massage oils. There are also Valentine’s Day glycerin soaps, hand-cut by the inch from large loaves, as well as numerous chocolate-scented products. Generally among the top sellers are shaving products, including brushes, soaps and aftershave balms.

“We’re seeing the move away from aerosol shaving creams to more traditional products,” Beckwith says. “Our shaving supplies are popular items for girls to buy for their boyfriends.”

“Or boys to buy their boyfriends,” Bauer says.

What will the entrepreneurs buy each other for Valentine’s Day? Season tickets to American Players Theatre are the gift of choice this year, as in years past, they say.