Stop what you're doing and make sure your toothpaste isn't causing cancer

Aug 11, 2014 at 9:42 p.m. ET
Image: Michael H/Photodisc/Getty Images

Here's one place you may not expect to find triclosan: toothpaste.

The antibacterial and antifungal agent commonly is found in antibacterial soaps and some say it is harmful.

According to Colgate-Palmolive, its Total toothpaste is safe and it was put through a stringent Food and Drug Administration approval process in 1997. Closer investigation showed that some of the findings used to prove triclosan's safety were not available to the public until this year.

Colgate’s Total application contained 35 pages of studies on triclosan that the FDA released this year after a Freedom of Information Act request, but now a few scientists working with Bloomberg News say the toothpaste should be put under evaluation again because new research is showing that the chemical can be harmful. Some studies have found it to disrupt the endocrine system and cause cancer, though some people say the concentration used in common products is too minute to cause a significant problem.

Colgate said it documented more than 80 clinical studies involving 19,000 people to find that Total is safe. Thomas DiPiazza, a spokesperson for the toothpaste company, said it submits yearly reports to the FDA covering new science and safety findings.

"In the nearly 18 years that Colgate Total has been on the market in the U.S., there has been no sign of a safety issue from adverse-event reports," DiPiazza told Bloomberg. More recently, a review conducted last year by the Cochrane Oral Health Group found the product to be completely safe.

Thomas Zoeller, a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said about 800 to 1,000 chemicals can disturb endocrine function and triclosan is one of about 10 that people are exposed to on a regular basis.

Worried about your Crest, Aquafresh or Sensodyne? Procter & Gamble, which makes Crest, said none of its products have contained triclosan for many years, and GlaxoSmithKline said they reformulated all toothpastes that previously contained it, but a spokesperson could not say if versions containing triclosan were sold in America.

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