Personal Health

Colgate Total Contains Chemical Linked To Cancer

The active ingredient in its toothpaste is none other than harmful chemical Triclosan.

It may be time to chuck out your toothpaste, according to a new Bloomberg report, which has revealed that the controversial chemical Triclosan found in anti-bacterial soaps, is also used as an ingredient to fight gum disease in the top-selling product Colgate Total.

In recent times, Triclosan’s safety has been contentious in light of a number of studies that indicate the drug is a potential hormone disrupter and linked to cancer-cell growth. And now, an investigative Bloomberg report is questioning the previously concealed, but recently-released, FDA 35-page review process that led to the toothpaste approval in 1997:

“A closer look at that application process…reveals that some of the scientific findings Colgate put forward to establish Triclosan’s safety in toothpaste weren’t black and white -- and weren’t, until this year, available to the public,” the report states.

Among the findings were studies showing that tadpoles exposed to a small amount of Triclosan, which is found in a blob of toothpaste, grew into small frogs with malformed legs as well as malformation in mice and rats.  What’s more, most of the evidence relied upon in approving the drug in Colgate Total in 1997 came from company-backed research.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Triclosan has come under the spotlight either.  While the FDA may be a little slow on the uptake regarding its use in toothpaste, in December the regulatory body called upon soap manufacturers using the ingredient to prove their products don’t pose health risks, after studies showed it was no more effective at reducing bacteria than soap and water, AlterNet reported.  The also chemical poses worrisome health risks including antibacterial resistance in animals, which can lead to a rise in super bugs.

Amidst the rising concerns, competitors of Colgate have caught on and started advertising that they are Triclosan-free. Consumer companies have also begun to phase it out. In May, Minnesota banned Triclosan in many of its products, as did the EU in materials that come into contact with food.

In response, Colgate has defended its product and says Total is safe citing 80 clinical studies which show its effectiveness in fighting plaque and gingivitis. Still, in the absence of any concrete data, we’re prefer not to take our chances, particularly as there are dozens of Triclosan-free toothpaste products on the market that don’t pose any health risks.  Better to be safe than sorry, after all

Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.