The Toxic Rip-Off in Your Toothpaste
Triclosan, a germ-killing chemical in everything from toothpaste ingredients to children's school supplies may soon be banned in Canada, thanks to a recent scientific review and a federal ruling deeming the chemical toxic to the environment.
In America, although studies of the antimicrobial chemical have prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to admit there are "valid concerns" about the health effects triclosan poses to humans, it's still allowed in soaps, makeup, deodorants, toothpaste, and many other personal care products. Many other everyday items are impregnated with the chemical, including children's school supplies, socks, bras and underwear, sandals, sneakers, kitchen utensils, and hundreds of other products.
Because triclosan was found to be toxic to the environment in the Canadian investigation, a process will now begin to find ways to curb its use there. This could include a ban on adding it to personal care products sold in Canada.
In stark contrast to the United States, Canada has taken on a strong initiative to identify 200 high-priority chemicals and test them for impacts on human and environmental health within five years. An earlier victory under this initiative included a ban on use of bisphenol A—another hormone-disrupting chemical—in baby bottles.
Current research looking at triclosan's effects on health suggest it alters normal hormonal processes and acts as a thyroid toxin. Some data suggests it's also causing an increase in antibiotic-resistant and potentially fatal superbug infections, and other recent research even linked triclosan to aggravation of allergies.
Products containing triclosan are sometimes sold at a premium and advertised as being "germ-free," "germ-fighting," "odor-free," "odor-fighting," or antimicrobial, despite the fact that scientists have already proven that regular soap and water works just as effectively as antibacterial soaps. A popular toothpaste, Colgate Total, also adds triclosan to the formula.
The FDA is due to release its own risk assessment next winter, but until then, it's up to consumers to protect themselves from this harmful and unnecessary chemical.
Take these easy steps to protect yourself from triclosan:
1. Use a nontoxic soap instead of antibacterial versions. The triclosan in the formulas is bad for you and is wiping out aquatic life after you wash it down your drain.
2. Steer clear of products advertised as being antimicrobial or making other germ- or odor-fighting claims. Products treated with Microban could also contain triclosan.
3. Avoid triclosan's cousin, too: Solid bar soap containing triclocarban should also be avoided. Researchers believe this compound is another harmful hormone disrupter. If you need a germ killer and don't have access to regular soap and water, look for alcohol-based hand sanitizers with an alcohol content of 70 percent. Avoid artificial fragrances in sanitizers, too. These have also been linked to health problems.