August is National Smile Month, and the Think Dirty team has been hard at work prepping ourselves with our best smiles. That means regular and proper brushing and flossing techniques for those pearly whites – but at what cost? Toothpastes such as the leading-brand Colgate Total contain the controversial ingredient triclosan, and even ‘safe’ alternatives such as Tom’s of Maine uses ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate and fluoride* in their products. What’s an organic junkie to do? Well, the answer is simple. Educate yourself! As consumers, the best way to shop ‘clean’ is to learn about what ingredients we put on our bodies. And that includes our daily toothpaste.
Triclosan has been under scrutiny recently – for good reason – by media outlets such as Bloomberg News, Business Insider, and the Washington Times. While Colgate Total was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997, the actual files of the Total application (which contained their triclosan toxicology studies) were only released this year. One study in the application discovered results that showed “fetal bone malformations in mice.” Other independent studies showed increased cancer risk, endocrine disruption, and triclosan’s ability to possibly be passed onto the fetus from an expecting mother. Thomas Zoeller, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, echoes our main concerns: “when we have studies on animals that suggest [that triclosan is not safe], I think we’re taking a huge risk.”
An antibacterial agent that “slow[s] … the growth of bacteria”, triclosan was actually phased out of all Colgate soap products in 2011. If the ingredient is a possible health risk for our hands, why is it still in our toothpastes?
Because of gingivitis. The company states that triclosan helps fight gingivitis, an inflammatory gum disease, by reducing the “germs that can cause … gingivitis.” But do the benefits of triclosan outweigh the health risks? While more than 80 scientific studies support Colgate’s claim that triclosan is safe, the studies are funded by Colgate – not reviewed by an independent third-party organization. According to Bloomberg, even the strict FDA “relies on company-backed science to show products are safe and effective.” Coupled with the alarming findings of bone deformities in mice fetuses, consumers are now wary of Total’s approval from the FDA.
But discontent is good, as a consent decree has prompted the FDA to reassess triclosan in hand soaps by 2016. In the meanwhile, we hope you’re keeping your smile both big and healthy by avoiding products with triclosan. If you’re looking for cleaner toothpaste alternatives, try out these products instead. Remember to Think Dirty, Shop Clean!
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