Colgate Total Toothpaste has been on the market as a top-selling toothpaste for over a decade. Recently released documents, however, discloses that triclosan, an active ingredient in the toothpaste, is linked to cancer cell growth and hormone disruption in lab animals.
Bloomberg News has reported that triclosan is currently under review by drug regulators. Triclosan was first used in hospital scrubs in the 1970s, and since then has been used in a wide variety of products, from cleaning supplies to kitchen utensils, even in children’s toys and Colgate Total Toothpaste. Our recommended alternative is to make your own toothpaste (see recipe).
Although the product was approved by the FDA well over a decade ago, the toxicology reports were kept secret until after a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed in 2013. The FDA has published the report on its website.
The report is 35 pages long and shows that the FDA was concerned about some of Colgate’s claims regarding the chemical, not only claims of the safety of the product, but also claims that it can fight gingivitis and plaque.
Among the study results in the report were those showing malformations in the fetal bones of lab animals, but Colgate insists that these findings were irrelevant. Colgate prefers to look at the studies done on children and adults that suggest triclosan is safe in small amounts.
The FDA determined, however, that Colgate had sufficiently evaluated the exposure of triclosan from exaggerated dosing and concluded that resulting levels were above the carcinigenicity advisory committee recommendations.
The FDA’s stance on triclosan is that it is not known to be hazardous to human health. However, this does not definitively prove the product is safe. While animal testing does not always give the same results as human testing, animal research does lead to concerns. The FDA has responded to these concerns by reopening investigation into the chemical, though the agency along with the EPA both believe triclosan in toothpaste and handsoap is safe.
Scientists recognize that many people are suspicious of widely used chemicals, despite FDA approval, and that say that such suspicion is not necessarily wrong. Much of the suspicion comes from the fact that in our culture we are exposed to many thousands of chemicals in a typical day. While these chemicals are generally considered safe by themselves, they have a tendency to react with one another with unpredictable results.
“We have created a system where we are testing these chemicals out on the human population. I love the idea they are all safe, but when we have studies on animals that suggest otherwise, I think we’re taking a huge risk.” says UMass Amherst Professor Thomas Zoeller.
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