The online community is now abuzz with the news that Colgate Total, a toothpaste used by millions of people worldwide on a daily basis, contains an ingredient that studies have linked to increased cancer risk, reduced fertility, and developmental issues.
Granted, such links between exposure to this ingredient and various medical problems have until now chiefly been documented in animal models, i.e. mice, rats, and frogs. Still, one cannot help but wonder whether or not the compound might be a threat to public health.
The Colgate Total ingredient that is now making headlines is dubbed triclosan. In a press release, Colgate Total's makers insist that it is perfectly safe when used to make toothpaste. What's more, they say that it helps stave off gum disease.
“Colgate Total toothpaste is uniquely formulated with 0.3% of the antibacterial ingredient triclosan to fight harmful plaque germs, which are the cause of most common dental problems,” Colgate Palmolive explains the decision to use triclosan to make toothpaste.
“Colgate Total is the only toothpaste that is both approved by the FDA and accepted by the American Dental Association as safe and effective. Its safety and effectiveness is supported by more than 80 scientific studies, involving 19,000 people,” it adds.
Here is where things get really interesting. So, the FDA (the Food and Drugs Administration in the US) says that, despite containing triclosan, this toothpaste is safe. However, late last year, the Administration itself started looking into the health risks associated with putting triclosan in soaps.
“Some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial product – for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) – could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects,” reads a press release issued in December 2013.
As it turns out, the FDA gave the green light to the making and marketing of Colgate Total based on company-backed science. Thus, a report published not too long ago following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit indicates that, although the FDA had it doubts, the company convinced it that the toothpaste contained far too little triclosan to constitute a threat to public health.
“The recently released pages, taken alongside new research on triclosan, raise questions about whether the agency did appropriate due diligence in approving Total 17 years ago,” a group of researchers told the press in a recent interview, as cited by Daily Mail.
Although triclosan has until now only been proven to affect laboratory animals, it's important to note that companies like Avon and Johnson & Johnson are already taking steps towards phasing it out from their line of products. For some reason, Colgate-Palmolive is refusing to reformulate its now very controversial toothpaste.