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Questions About Colgate Total Ingredient Linked to Hormones, Cancer

Aug 14, 2014

Amid questions about the antibacterial chemical triclosan, Colgate-Palmolive Co. says Total toothpaste is safe, and cites the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process that led to the toothpaste's 1997 approval as an over-the-counter drug.

Triclosan has been linked to cancer-cell growth and disrupted development in animals. Regulators are reviewing whether triclosan is safe to use in such products as soap, cutting boards and toys, Bloomberg News reports. Some companies are phasing it out and Minnesota recently voted to ban triclosan in many products.

Colgate says Total underwent a rigorous FDA approval process, but Bloomberg News says that some of the scientific findings Colgate put forward to establish triclosan's safety in toothpaste weren't black and white. The findings were not available to the public until this year when 35 pages summarizing toxicology studies were released in response to a lawsuit over a Freedom of Information Act request. These pages, along with new research on triclosan, raise questions about whether the approval should stand, according to three scientists who reviewed the pages at Bloomberg New's request.

Colgate said Total's effectiveness and safety are supported by more than 80 clinical studies involving 19,000 people, and that in the nearly 18 years the toothpaste has been on the market, "there has been no signal of a safety issue from adverse-event reports." The company says Total has an important health benefit in fighting plaque and gingivitis, which can progress to periodontal disease, according to Bloomberg News.

Scientific studies have raised health concerns about triclosan. A 2012 study linked triclosan to reduced fertility in mice, while another study suggested it could impair muscle function. A 2013 study linked triclosan to lowered sperm production and changed sperm shape in rats, Bloomberg News reports. Some studies have found triclosan to be no more effective that soap and water in killing bacteria -- and in some cases it could support growth of bacteria including the type that causes staph infections.

Newer studies suggest that even small doses of certain chemicals can significantly affect hormone functions, if they are delivered at the wrong moment. Rising doses of triclosan may cause new unpredictable effects, Bloomberg News reports.

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