Industry urged to take precautions with triclosan

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Toothpaste

Following various studies on the use of the antibacterial agent triclosan in consumer products, including oral care, experts are urging companies to remove it from their formulations as a precaution.

Elizabeth Salter Green, director of ChemTrust, a health and environmental body, explained that on a precautionary basis the chemical may not be safe to use at any level.

“It is important to stress that triclosan is not a dioxin, however concerns are that under certain circumstances it can develop the ability to disrupt hormones,”​ she told

Found in many consumer products

Triclosan is an ingredient added to many consumer products as an antibacterial ingredient.

It may be found in products such as antibacterial soaps and body washes, toothpastes, and some cosmetics. It is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Union.

At this time, the FDA does not have evidence that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water. However it stated that in 1997, reviewed extensive effectiveness data on triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste showing that triclosan in this product was effective in preventing gingivitis.

Salter Green suggested that whilst one toxin may be harmless in a product individually, they may be dangerous if reacting together, suggesting that if there was no benefit for the toxin, it should be left out of the formulation.

Removed from GSK’s oral products

Oral care giant, GlaxoSmithKline, has removed triclosan from its Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpastes, as well as its Corsodyl mouthwash, according to the University of Florida which has performed a study on the ingredient in sheep.

“If one eats the right foods and maintains correct dental hygiene, then triclosan, or other antibacterial agents are not needed,”​ explained Salter Green.

In the study by the University of Florida, researchers found that levels of triclosan were potentially damaging to the unborn foetus, if ingested by the carrying mother.

“We know it's a problem. But we just don't know how much of a problem. Triclosan can affect blood flow to the uterus, meaning the baby’s brain does not get the oxygen it needs,”​ said Professor Margaret James, who is the lead-author of the present study.

Discussing this particular study, Salter Green mentioned that a developing foetus in the uterus is extremely sensitive, and may be affected by disrupted hormone affecting brain development, metabolism, or the reproductive system.

Although this test was carried out on sheep, she explained that if the triclosan disrupts the hormone activity in an animal, whilst not being 100 per cent comparable, preserved hormonal evolution would suggest possible dangers to humans, and that the agent should be avoided if possible purely from a precautionary level.

For the FDA Fact Sheet on triclosan click here​.

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