Triclosan Controversy: Pesticide Use in Colgate Toothpaste
Fearing the Unknown Triclosin
Fear Inducing Triclosan
Have you ever thought about the ingredients in your toothpaste? Some chemicals in toothpastes are difficult to pronounce, let alone understand the effects on oral health. Moms and Dads give their children toothpaste thinking they are looking out for their children. Are they? Triclosan, an antibacterial chemical, has drawn some degree of controversy. You be the judge and decide what to squirt on your toothbrush.
“Oh man,” I thought to myself as I watched the news, "I've gotta start using a different kind of toothpaste." I usually don’t watch news because of the sensationalism.
The hooks and commercial breaks are a bit much for me. Most of the news is presented to scare people. And fear of the unknown is used often. For example, awaiting medical test results is pretty dang scary.The news people glue you to the tv with these strategies. That's why I used a provocative title for this Hub.
Anyway, I watched the news, got scared, changed toothpaste brands, and then did some research. I probably should have started with the research. All I heard on the news was that Triclosan, commonly used in hand soaps and other household products, may cause harmful hormones to be released.
My reaction was “Oh crap!” I knew that the very toothpaste that I was using contained Triclosan. My first thought was, if it could be harmful on my hands, then it is likely to be at least as harmful in my mouth. Now I’m scared!
I switched to non-Triclosan containing toothpaste within the week. Finally I checked out some various sites online to research how harmful Triclosan really is. Here's a summary of my three hours of online investigation. Look to the margin for the links I used.
How do you use Triclosan?
I use Triclosan...
Triclosan Article in Washington Post
- FDA says studies on triclosan, used in sanitizers and soaps, raise concerns
The Food and Drug Administration said recent research raises "valid concerns" about the possible health effects of triclosan, an antibacterial chemical found in a growing number of liquid soaps, hand sanitizers, dishwashing liquids, shaving gels and
An updated article from the Washington Post gives the two sided story of Triclosan. Those worried about health effects claim that Triclosan is too widely used and can disrupt endocrine function. "Triclosan can be found in 75% of the population's urine." Triclosan is used in many products.
Those who represent the health products manufacturing argue basically, "No it doesn't do anything harmful to you." Neither side can prove anything just yet, but every few months to a year a new article like this comes out. It's good to keep bringing it up, because Triclosan should be used with some caution until longitudinal studies can prove it benign.
Activists' View of Triclosan
Activist sites such, as www.beyondpesticides.org, list and explain an array of worries about the antimicrobial pesticide. These include acute toxicity, chronic health effects, allergy link, dioxin link, resistance concerns, and environmental effects. Supporting evidence is cited in the article.
So, according to the activist sites, negative consequences of using Triclosan range from getting a rash on your skin to “detrimental effects on aquatic ecosystems.” They suggest using regular soap and water for everyday hand washing. As an alternative they also suggest using essential oils such as Australian tee tree oil, grapefruit seed extract, and pine oil, which have antimicrobial properties.
Government Information of Triclosan
This was more difficult to sort out. The FDA lists Triclosan as one of a few trade names of cloxifenolum, a pesticide chemical used as a microbicide. Another common name is Microban. The FDA approved Colgate Total as the first toothpaste that reduces gum disease in 1997 because of its Triclosan additive. I was unable to find any FDA recalls listed about the product.
The EPA site included an explanation that the FDA is in charge of watching Triclosan’s use in hygiene products, while the EPA checks into environmental concerns. This includes uses in industry and textiles. I found some really interesting research on the docket link. Articles are included that break down toxicity in various wildlife species. The EPA will be re-evaluating Triclosan in 2013. This will be ten years earlier than originally planned.
The CDC conducted some studies using random sampling and found a couple interesting things. Urine samples collected from people in their thirties who have the highest level of income produced the most concentrated amounts of Triclosan compared to other age groups and socioeconomic status. A different CDC study included a link between households that use antibacterial soaps and the carrying of drug resistant bacteria on their hands.
Professional Organization and Scholarly Stand on Triclosan
The ADA seal is included in the toothpaste I was using, but I was unable to find articles on the ADA website showing their approval. The Southern Association of Institutional Dentists did however include an article about the efficacy of Triclosan hours after use. Significant results were shown by reduction of microorganisms in plaque, saliva, and on the tongue.
The Journal of Professional Excellence: Dimensions of Dental Hygiene site included an article titled, “Formulating Plaque Reduction,” which cited two studies indicating a reduction in plaque and gingivitis from use of Triclosan.
Commercial Claims about Triclosan
Colgate claims twelve hour protection in their Total line due to Triclosan held in place by a copolymer called Gantrez. Colgate has a patent on the combination, and explains that the Gantrez allows the Triclosan to be effective for longer periods of time by binding to mouth tissues.
Conclusions about the Product
Pros: Effectively kills bacteria, can be used in many products, helps prevent gingivitis.
Cons: May be harmful to aquatic ecosystems, may promote resistent bacteria growth, may cause developmental harm, may cause accute symptoms, may build up in our bodies, needs more testing.
I was glad to find some degree of research on Triclosan, and the more I read the more I felt at ease about it. Just like getting to know someone better, I became less apprehensive about brushing my teeth with it.
I wouldn’t say that Triclosan and I are buddies yet. I am still concerned about its widespread use, and the potential environmental and health hazards that could accumulate over time. I guess everyone must research and decide what is most harmful in the end. We have to weigh the positives and negatives like everyone else, make our best informed decision, and live (or not live) with the consequences.
Triclosan Sources on the Web
- Popular Pesticide Triclosan Found to Carry Numerous Health and Environmental Risks | CommonDreams.or
Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy organization, in partnership with the public health and environmental activist group Beyond Pesticides, today submitted an amended petition to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) r
- Beyond Pesticides
Beyond Pesticides offers the latest pesticide news, pesticide factsheets, and information on non-toxic alternatives and ongoing projects including children's health, mosquito control and lawncare.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page
Home Page for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Dimensions of Dental Hygiene Article
- Colgate Total Toothpaste Information and FAQs.