August 14, 2014 — Bloomberg reports that Colgate Total is the only toothpaste sold in America with triclosan, a chemical that has been linked to cancer-cell growth and fetal abnormalities in animal studies.
Colgate Total was approved by the FDA in 1997 with a 35-page summary of toxicology studies on triclosan. Some of the studies were done by the manufacturer of triclosan.
After Bloomberg had a group of scientists review the data, they warned:
“Among the pages were studies showing fetal bone malformations in mice and rats. Colgate said the findings weren’t relevant. Viewed through the prism of today’s science, such malformations look more like a signal that triclosan is disrupting the endocrine system and throwing off hormonal functioning.”
Triclosan is an antimicrobial ingredient that helps stop or slow the growth of bacteria and fungi, such as mildew. The first safety tests on triclosan were in 1968. Two years later, it was first used as an ingredient in antibacterial soaps. Today, it is used in hundreds of products — toothpaste, detergent, lotions, dishwashing liquid, floor rugs, textiles, and more.
Since the 1970s, the FDA has repeatedly declined to rule on whether triclosan is safe and effective in hand soaps. In 2010, a lawsuit was filed to force the FDA to make a decision on triclosan’s safety. As part of a settlement the FDA has agreed to do so by 2016. Currently, the FDA says “triclosan is not known to be hazardous to humans” and there is not “sufficient safety evidence” to warn against using it.
In 2003, a study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found triclosan in the urine of 75% of 2,517 Americans tested. Unfortunately, long-term safety research of triclosan in humans is lacking. No one knows if daily, oral ingestion of triclosan in toothpaste has long-term health risks. Studies in rats and mice have found adverse effects at high doses, including reduced fertility and increased cancer risk. However, it is unclear whether these same risks apply to humans.
In the meantime, Minnesota became the first state to ban the sale of triclosan-based cleaning products for the hand and body. However, they will still allow FDA-approved products like Colgate Total on the market. Major manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, Proctor and Gamble, and Unilever are phasing the ingredient out of their product. However, Colgate-Palmolive says it has no plans to remove triclosan from Colgate Total.