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Is Triclosan in Colgate Total a carcinogenic chemical?

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A chemical called triclosan, which is used in Colgate Total toothpaste, is said to be linked with cancer cell growth. The chemical is also found in furniture, clothing, kitchenware and toys. It is also an ingredient in antibacterial body washes and soaps, toothpastes and a number of cosmetics, which are regulated by the FDA. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains that triclosan is included in numerous products to prevent or reduce bacterial contamination. The FDA also suggests on its website that triclosan is not hazardous to humans.

"For some consumer products, there is clear evidence that triclosan provides a benefit. In 1997, FDA reviewed extensive effectiveness data on triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste. The evidence showed that triclosan in this product was effective in preventing gingivitis," the FDA Consumer Updates page reads.

The FDA reveals that some animal related studies suggest that the chemical changes hormone regulation. However, the government agencies say that certain effects of the chemical in animals do not predict the same effects on humans.

The concern about triclosan and its risk of being a carcinogenic was on spotlight following the release of the toxicology report triggered by a lawsuit based on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Upon prodding of media, the FDA posted the report on its website.  

The application of Colgate included toxicology studies on triclosan. The company dismissed findings of mice studies indicating premature birth and bone malformation upon exposure to high doses of triclosan. Scientists who reviewed the report upon the request of Bloomberg concluded that the details were not enough to dismiss the findings.

The report also documents another cancer study where triclosan was given to rats for an extended perior of two years. FDA declared the study insufficient and required another study to be done. In 1996, the agency said it was collaborating with Triclosan Industry Alliance for another cancer study. The results of the said study was expected 18 months after February that year but Total was approved 17 months after.

Colgate is not accused of anything but the process shows how the FDA relied on company-backed studies when it approved the application of the company to produce Total toothpaste in 1997.  

According to Colgate, the Total toothpaste is a trusted name worldwide and thousands of Americans have been using it for many years. Colgate also highlights that the Total toothpaste is also recommended by many dentists.

The toothpaste company explains that the Colgate Total includes 0.3 percent triclosan, which wards off plaque and germs harmful for the gums and teeth. The company says that the toothpaste is also clinically-proven to reduce germs better when compared to other toothpastes available in the market.

Colgate also points out that it is not only FDA but also other government agencies across the globe, who suggest that triclosan is safe to use in toothpaste.

"Colgate Total is the only toothpaste on the market that has undergone the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's rigorous New Drug Application (NDA) review process for efficacy and safety, including periodic reviews of scientific literature and safety information. As recently as November 25, 2013, the FDA continues to affirm its support for the use of Colgate Total® toothpaste to fight gum disease," per Colgate.

The toothpaste company also claims that the Colgate Total is the only known toothpaste approved by the FDA and also accepted by the American Dental Association as an effective and safe solution to prevent gingivitis, a gum disease.

Other well-known toothpaste makers such as Procter & Gamble (P&G) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) do not use triclosan in their toothpastes. P&G says that the company does not market or produce oral products that contain triclosan. GSK previously used triclosan in some of its toothpastes but the company has reformulated its oral products and they do not contain the purported harmful chemical.

Other report cites that the European Union has placed a ban for the use of triclosan in any food-related products.

It remains unclear if triclosan is harmful to humans; however, it remains to be seen if the FDA starts a fresh investigation to ensure that the chemical is safe to be used in toothpastes.

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