Triclosan in Toothpaste Raises Concerns

<"">Triclosan, an antimicrobial that can be found in antibacterial soaps can also be found in some toothpastes. We have long written about the issue with triclosan and bacterial resistance and, now, the Daily Mail reports that the European Union’s (EU) Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety issued a warning that triclosan could add to bacterial resistance and called for more studies.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expressed concern about bacterial resistance and data that points to triclosan’s hormone disrupting properties, said the Daily Mail. In April, the FDA acknowledged soaps containing triclosan offer no additional benefit over regular soap and water and expressed concern over the development of antibiotic resistance from using antibacterial products and about triclosan’s potential long-term health effects, but never acted on rule-making to ban the chemical. The FDA first proposed a rule to remove triclosan from soap in 1978.

Until this rule is finalized, the chemicals can be widely used with no regulatory oversight—despite evidence that they are not effective and numerous studies link them to serious health risks. The growing use of these chemicals has led to widespread residues in the environment and in people; recent bio-monitoring results found residues in 75 percent of Americans over the age of six.

The Daily Mail notes that triclosan was developed about 50 years ago and was used as a surgical scrub.

Studies have found that triclosan can prompt gene mutations in bacteria, which allows the bacteria to protect themselves against triclosan, creating a resistance, said the Daily Mail. When this occurs, the bacteria release proteins that send the same protection to other bacteria, created a “cross-resistance” that could adversely impact the efficacy of antibiotics and other critical drugs, said the Daily Mail.

In toothpaste, triclosan exhibited strong antibacterial and antifungal properties, surpassing fluoride-only toothpastes in trials against plaque and gum disease, noted the Daily Mail. Colgate Total is among the toothpastes containing triclosan; GlaxoSmithKline removed the chemical from its Aquafresh, Sensodyne, and Corsodyl products, said the Daily Mail.

A spokeswoman for Colgate Palmolive, citing the links between gum and heart disease, argued that “Colgate Total toothpaste is clinically proven to reduce the bacteria and plaque that can lead to gingivitis. This is an important benefit because there is a significant and growing body of scientific research on the association between periodontal disease and systemic health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes,” quoted the Daily Mail.

Studies point to bacterial mutations of E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, as well as some strains of the MRSA super bug, having some triclosan resistance, the Daily Mail noted.

Triclosan levels in humans have increased by 50 percent in just five years, according to emerging CDC data. Studies indicate the chemical can interfere with hormones critical for normal development and reproduction, which can lead to long-term health problems including poor sperm quality and infertility, and damage to the developing brain leading to poor learning and memory.

The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) recently filed a lawsuit against the FDA to force it to issue a final rule on the safety and efficacy on triclosan.

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