Why Is a Banned Chemical Allowed in Leading Toothpastes?

Forget ‘namak’, ‘kya aapke toothpaste mein triclosan hai’? If yes, then you should be really worried!

Updated
Health News
3 min read
Run to your bathroom cabinet and check if your toothpaste has Triclosan and read this chilling report of the potential harm you’re exposing yourself to. (Photo: iStock)

Last week, after 40 years of deliberation, the US Food and Drug Authority banned the chemical Triclosan in soaps. This was done because not only is it ineffective but also really harmful to our health and the environment.

But it’s strange that a substance too dangerous for washing hands is allowed to be present in our top-selling toothpastes - Colgate and Pepsodent. The toothpastes go directly into our mouth, where chemical absorption is much faster than through the skin.

This chemical can mess with your hormones; affect normal thyroid function; damage the brain lining; cause infertility; and is also co-related to a host of chronic health issues like childhood obesity and diabetes, among others.

So why is it not banned yet? Scratching your head at the moment? You’re not alone.

Caution: Depending on the company creating the product, Triclosan can also be branded as Microban® Additive B, Irgasan® (DP 300 or PG 60), Biofresh®, Lexol-300, Ster-Zac or Cloxifenolum. Some soaps will use Triclocarban in place of Triclosan. (Photo: The Quint)
Caution: Depending on the company creating the product, Triclosan can also be branded as Microban® Additive B, Irgasan® (DP 300 or PG 60), Biofresh®, Lexol-300, Ster-Zac or Cloxifenolum. Some soaps will use Triclocarban in place of Triclosan. (Photo: The Quint)

The Many Health Problems With Triclosan and Its Notorious Cousin Triclocarban

The whole ‘clean is good, cleaner is better’ mentality has led to the addition of these high-risk chemicals in many personal care products, deodorants, body washes and toothpastes.

A screenshot from the Pepsodent website. Ironically, the only area in which Triclosan has proved  to be effective is in the fight against gingivitis.
A screenshot from the Pepsodent website. Ironically, the only area in which Triclosan has proved to be effective is in the fight against gingivitis.

From four decades’ research about the ill-effects of Triclosan that has been trickling in, here’s a gist:

1.It Impairs Muscles: Four years ago, researchers found Triclosan can “impair” muscle function and cause bone deformation. This is especially alarming when you think that the human heart is also a muscle.

The Smithsonian reports:

“The effects of Triclosan on cardiac function were really dramatic,” said co-author Nipavan Chiamvimonvat. “Although Triclosan is not regulated as a drug, this compound acts like a potent cardiac depressant in our models.” In a chilling finding, the researchers claim that “in some cases, Triclosan may be responsible for exacerbating heart problems in patients with an underlying condition.”

2. Causes Cellular Changes: Innumerable studies have shown that these banned chemicals are rapidly absorbed by the skin and can cause changes in the skeletal and cardiac muscle function.

3. Allergies: Several research papers show that when children live in a bacteria-proof environment, there is a much higher chance of developing allergies, like peanut allergy and hay fever. Most studies conclude that this is because excessive use kills the bacteria necessary for developing a proper immune system.

4. Hormonal Changes: Even if a trillionth per gramme of this seeps into your body, it can affect your normal thyroid function; damage your brain lining; cause infertility; and is co-related to a host of chronic health issues, like childhood obesity and diabetes, among others.

5. it Corrupts the Food Chain: In addition to the above, these nasty chemicals end up in sewage sludge. They can then damage the soil and re-enter the food chain through the crops that grow on them.

India’s FDA is Not Bothered. But Would You Want it in Your Mouth if You’re Concerned About It?

Reportedly, drug regulators back home have also taken cognisance of these reports and sources in the the Central Drug Standard Organisation promise that the issue of the nasty Triclosan will be “deliberated soon”.

For now, the makers of Colgate Total, one of the top-sellers in the US as well as in India, have convinced the US FDA about the benefits of Triclosan in fighting gingivitis. In a statement released to The New York Times, Colgate’s global spokesperson said:

“The full weight of scientific evidence amassed over 25 years continues to support the safety and efficacy of Colgate Total.”

But look at the logic here - we put soaps on our hands and rinse them off with water. But the exposure through the pores in the gums gets rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Clearly, don’t imagine the bell to toll on Triclosan anytime soon. But there’s a simple, effective way to regulate your exposure to these troublesome chemicals. Read the labels carefully when you pick up a shower gel or a deodorant, toothpaste or handwash. If these perilous ingredients are added, put them right back because nothing shows the middle finger to the manufacturers like a drop in sales.

Also Read: Alert: Antibacterial Soap Ineffective, Maybe Even Making Us Sick

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