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Safety Of Triclosan In Toothpaste Questioned

Personal Care: Experts, advocates scrutinize industry safety data on antibacterial chemical

by Britt E. Erickson
August 18, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 33

The Food & Drug Administration ignored red flags in industry safety data that it relied on when approving the antibacterial triclosan for use in toothpaste, say some scientists and an environmental group.

FDA recently released those data, which it had withheld since 1997 when it approved triclosan in toothpaste. The agency did so in response to a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an activist group. The data show a link between triclosan exposure and fetal bone malformation in animals.

Colgate, the only company that sells toothpaste containing triclosan in the U.S., says the findings are irrelevant to human health. Triclosan is “safe and effective for treating gingivitis,” the firm says.

But experts say the data should have alerted FDA that triclosan is a potential endocrine disruptor.

“A growing body of evidence shows that triclosan can lead to developmental and reproductive problems in animals and potentially in humans,” says Benny Pycke, a scientist at Arizona State University. Pycke presented new research at a meeting of the American Chemical Society last week showing that pregnant women and their fetuses are exposed to the chemical.

NRDC is now asking FDA for the latest data on the safety of triclosan in toothpaste and on adverse events associated with the chemical. Colgate reports such information to FDA annually. But the public is unlikely to see it anytime soon because FDA told NRDC it would take up to two years to look into the request, an NRDC attorney says.


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