Manufacturers use triclosan in the making of deodorants, shaving cream, toothpaste, clothing, cutting boards and many more. This antibacterial and antimicrobial chemical has recently been reviewed for its potential health risks. For decades its manufacturers have been unable to prove its safety in soap and thus leading to its ban. However, after its ban from soaps, you’ll still find it in your toothpaste. But how safe is this chemical in your toothpaste? The manufacturers of the famous Colgate brand have convinced the F.D.A that the benefits of triclosan in toothpaste outweighs any risks.
Research on Triclosan
Back in 2013, there were several conflicting research. For example, according to a review of 30 studies investigating the use of triclosan in toothpaste, they found it to be safe meaning there was no serious health concern regarding its use for up to three years of duration.
However, FDA banned triclosan use in soaps and over-the-counter antiseptics products since the companies using it failed to prove its safety. Since FDA doesn’t have authority over cosmetics such as shaving gels and lotions, then they can’t ban its use in such products. The data presented to the FDA following the ban of triclosan showed that the product can do more harm than good over the long term. Some of the long term effects included bacterial resistance and hormonal effects.
Effects of Triclosan on Health
Several researchers have studied the effects of triclosan on rodents, other animals and few on humans. Although they need more human data, it’s important we look at animal studies since all the time animals’ studies predict the effects of chemicals in human. Some of the lasting consequences of triclosan on health include:
Allergies and Asthma
According to studies done on animals and a few on human, triclosan makes people more sensitive to allergens. This doesn’t necessarily imply triclosan causes hay fever, but it can cause hay fever symptoms to be triggered by smaller than the usual amount of pollen. Also, reports showed that triclosan can worsen asthma among people who already have it. In recent years, cases of asthma and allergies have increased. This could be as a result of the use of triclosan.
Affects Human Reproduction and Development
After several studies, triclosan was found to lower testosterone levels and decrease sperm production. It also affects the thyroid hormone which is essential for brain development in children. However, there are less human studies to show that it affects people in a similar way.
Affects Gut Bacteria
In a study by the University of Massachusetts which mainly focused on triclosan found in toothpaste, they fed mice a solution of triclosan which they say is comparable to what one absorbs when they brush their teeth. The results showed that triclosan altered mice’s gut bacteria and after three weeks some mice developed gut problems gut problem including inflammation of the colon. In defense, Brian Slezak, a toxicologist at Colgate-Palmolive said that this research had some flaws because mice metabolize triclosan differently than humans. The FDA classified Colgate Total as a safe and effective way to prevent gingivitis. Slezak says that they have done research on this matter for over the past 20 years, including 90 clinical studies and 20,000 subjects as well as the approval from FDA. The findings of this research prove the safety and efficacy of the toothpaste.
Chang, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and board member of the American Gastroenterological Association’s Center for Gut Microbiome Research & Education says, “Upsetting the gut microbiome early in life can have lasting consequences.” This is because the microbes in the guts influence immune system development. Therefore, anything that upsets those microbes such as chemical like triclosan can distort the way the immune system develops.
Causes Antibiotic and Antimicrobial Resistance
With time, researchers say that bacteria may become immune to triclosan. Making it and any other antimicrobials less effective. However, Colgate says that it’s too soon to tell its impacts on antibiotic resistance. Despite the lack of proper proof, it’s advisable to be careful as this may be a real concern.
You’re advised to be cautious when using products with triclosan until more information is made available. Products using triclosan should mention that on the label. As a consumer, you can get more insight into products that are using or considering to use triclosan in the Environmental Working Groups Website. Although their database isn’t that comprehensive. Richard Niederman, DDS, chairman of New York University’s College of Dentistry, advises that if you prefer triclosan-free toothpaste and you want a bit of extra plague fighting power, you should buy it with stannous fluoride instead. It’s good for rebuilding tooth enamel.
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