Triclosan back in the headlines as ingredient in Colgate toothpaste

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Triclosan back in the headlines as ingredient in Colgate toothpaste

Related tags Bloomberg investigative report Triclosan Toothpaste

As evidence and awareness of the potential hazards associated with Triclosan grows, the fact that Colgate’s Total toothpaste contains the chemical is causing a stir.

Most recently Minnesota state legislatures voted to outlaw the ingredient in May of this year, making it the first state to do so, and a move that many view as the beginning of the end for its use in many cosmetic and personal care products.

This means the fact that one of the leading brands of toothpaste in the United States is formulated with the ingredient is creating a media impact that only a few months ago probably would not have made the news.

Colgate got triclosan approval 17 years ago

Colgate’s application to have its Total formulation approved by the FDA 17 years ago included 35 pages of summarized toxicology studies which were withheld from view, the investigative report points out, while also stressing that Colgate cannot be accused of wrongdoing.

However, the information was later made public following lawsuit pressure that cited the Freedom of Information Act, and the information has been available on the FDA website since January of this year, which outlines the approval process for the formulation.

The Bloomberg investigative report initiated the help of three scientists who studied the FDA paperwork, and underlined that the FDA’s questions concerning the thoroughness of cancer studies on triclosan were only partly addressed.

Triclosan safety is not straight forward

The scientists involved in the study underlined that some questions about triclosan are inherently impossible to answer, but one of them, Thomas Zoeller, a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, points to animal studies on the ingredient that underline safety issues.

“We have created a system where we are testing these chemicals out on the human population. I love the idea they are all safe,”​ Zoeller stated in the article. “But when we have studies on animals that suggest otherwise, I think we’re taking a huge risk.”

Although the article points that the FDA followed standard procedures by not including the information about the report and that Colgate did follow procedures, it also points to the fact that the newly published information misses out information such as whether or not the safety studies were carried out by outside parties.

Minnesota bans triclosan

The Minnesota bill cited both health and environmental concerns over the chemical, referring to scientific research that suggests it can disrupt hormone levels in fetuses as well as posing a risk of resistance to bacteria.

 ​With respect to the environment, a recent study carried out on several fresh water Lakes of Minnesota have found a growing level of triclosan pollution, which is of particular concern considering that it does not degrade.

The study, published in the Environmental Science and Technology​ journal last year, raised new questions about the use of triclosan, which the scientists say has potential toxic effects in the environment when exposed to sunlight.

The lawmakers say that the bill will not be enacted until the start of 2017 and are hoping that it will lead to snowball effect that will eventually see more and more states enforcing a similar ban.

Related topics Regulation & Safety

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