Triclosan, used in toothpaste, handwash, causes cancer, says study but FDA ban far off

Triclosan, an additive used in toothpaste and body soaps, will affect liver with increased toxicity and may even cause liver fibrosis and cancer, said another study adding more tooth to FDA scanner that is weighing with the option of its ban.

Long-term exposure to triclosan in soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and other household items as an anti-bacterial may cause liver fibrosis and cancer, warned the recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It said triclosan may interfere with androstane receptor, a detxifying protein to keep foreign chemicals away in the body. But in reaction to this stress, liver cells produce more cells to become fibrotic over a period of time leading to liver fibrosis and later cancer.

Exposure to triclosan in mice for six months made mice liver more susceptible to chemical-induced tumours, which were larger and more frequent compared to the mice not exposed to triclosan, said Robert Tukey, professor at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

The traces of triclosan were found in 97% of breast milk samples from lactating women and in the urine of nearly 75% of people tested. “Triclosan’s increasing detection in environmental samples and its increasingly broad use in consumer products may overcome its moderate benefit and present a very real risk of liver toxicity for people, as it does in mice,” said Tukey.

Triclosan is used in liquid hand soap Dial and Colgate’s Total toothpaste. Colgate Total received the US regulator FDA nod in 1997 for Colgate Total labelling it a product for fighting cavities, plaque and gingivitis but it was later learned that the evidence provided by Colgate was reportedly one-sided and the approval was given, without further study, said a Bloomberg report in August this year.

The fact came to light when a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit elicited the reality in early 2014 revealing that the FDA gave the approval based on the company’s claims. Initially, the FDA rejected the data submitted by Colgate-Palmolive about triclosan’s safety but the company conducted a new cancer study and re-submitted its report in January 1997. The report was re-analyzed by experts early this year who found the toxic chemical triclosan in the tooth paste may lead to birth defects, fetal malformations, low birth weight and premature birth in animals.

Caren Helbing, a professor at the University of Victoria in Canada, told Bloomberg that the chemical could be a potential endocrine disruptor. Even small amounts twice a day may lead to small size at birth and abnormal legs, he added.

Moreover, in 2010, the European Union banned the chemical in products that come into direct contact with food and firms like GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Avon Products have removed the chemical from their products, including tooth paste, toys, furniture, soaps, clothing, body washes, cookware and cosmetics.

(See the 2010 report on Triclosan on the FDA website)

Colgate, however, said its product is safe. “In the nearly 18 years that Colgate Total has been on the market in the U.S., there has been no signal of a safety issue from adverse-event reports,” Colgate spokesman Thomas DiPiazza, told Bloomberg. He said the company has been taking necessary steps to ensure the product’s safety by reviewing findings frequently.

[triclosan, side effects, cancer, toothpaste, handwash, total, colgate, deal, fda approval, tukey, birth defects, harmful]

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