A Banned Chemical May Lurk in Your Toothpaste

Critics question FDA’s decision to forbid triclosan in soap but not in toothpaste
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2016 12:45 PM CDT
A Banned Chemical May Lurk in Your Toothpaste
Colgate Total is the only toothpaste in the US to contain triclosan, which the FDA has banned in soap.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The FDA last week banned the use of a chemical from soap, but not from the nation’s top-selling toothpaste. Why? The New York Times reports it was because Colgate-Palmolive convinced the FDA that the benefits of triclosan are greater than the risks. Toothpaste containing the chemical "demonstrated to be effective at reducing plaque and gingivitis," an FDA spokeswoman said. The decision came after the agency announced that there was not enough evidence to prove that antibacterial soap containing triclosan was any better "at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water." Worse, long-term use of the soap, the agency said in a statement, "has raised the question of potential negative effects on your health."

Scientists have long raised concerns that prolonged exposure to germ-fighters could result in strains of resistant bacteria. The only toothpaste in the US that contains triclosan Colgate Total, the Times reports. Colgate-Palmolive insists that rigorous testing has shown the toothpaste is safe. "The full weight of scientific evidence amassed over 25 years continues to support the safety and efficacy of Colgate Total," spokesman Mike DiPiazza told the paper. But critics questioned the FDA’s logic. "We put soap on our hands, and a small amount gets into our body," said Rolf Halden, an expert at Arizona State University who has studied triclosan. He said that with exposure through the gums "chemicals get rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream." (The feds have also targeted fluoride.)

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