How brushing your teeth can be hazardous to your health

You may remember the big fuss that was made about the antibacterial ingredient triclosan last year. The chemical got a lot of press when it was “banned” by the FDA. But get this… that was only for soaps and hand sanitizers!

Whatever news you’ve heard about the risk of triclosan before, however, will pale in comparison to what researchers have now discovered.

A just-published study has revealed a shocking finding – triclosan is now known to fuel the growth of colon cancer! And guess where you’ll find it?  In one of the best-selling toothpastes on the market: Colgate Total.

And that’s not all.

It’s also used in thousands of other diverse products — ranging from hand creams, deodorants, cosmetics and shampoos to toys, utensils, clothing, and even yoga mats.

This new study has brought the dangers of triclosan back into the spotlight. And since the FDA appears to have basically washed its hands of the matter, that means that we’re going to have to take this back into our own (triclosan-free) hands.

Banned, but not really

The triclosan story is a clear reminder of how often our health regulators bend over backward to serve industry.

It’s been over a decade since the FDA starting talking about what it should do with this chemical. So, here was the answer: Triclosan and a dozen similar substances were no longer going to be “recognized as safe and effective,” and they would be removed, but only from two products – the hand sanitizers and soaps I mentioned.

Case closed!

But, of course, it really wasn’t. While that Colgate toothpaste is far from the only product to harbor this risky substance, it’s particularly frightening considering these new findings. As Rolf Halden, from Arizona State University (who has been researching triclosan for years) warns, “chemicals get rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream” through the gums.

What this new research discovered is that triclosan can deplete some vital strains of beneficial gut bacteria and lead to a whole host of intestinal problems.

The researchers — who came from numerous institutions including Harvard, the University of Massachusetts, and Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as the College of Life Sciences in China — found that when mice were fed triclosan at levels equal to what people are typically exposed to, it depleted vital strains of intestinal bacteria.

And that, in turn, led to colon damage, increased inflammation, and a worsening of colitis.

Another finding was that when it came to colon cancer, triclosan exposure was like throwing gasoline on a fire. Once exposed, the test mice (specially bred to develop colon cancer) had larger tumors and were more likely to die from their cancer than the rodents who weren’t exposed.

The lead author warns that further studies are “urgently needed,” but I think we’ve heard enough already. What’s really urgently needed is to get this chemical out of our lives once and for all!

Aside from personal-care items like cosmetics and toothpaste, you can be exposed to triclosan (or one of its close relatives) in numerous everyday products that claim to be resistant to bacterial growth. And yes, not only do you absorb some of the chemical into your body when using or wearing one of these treated items, but the toxin can also settle in house dust, exposing everyone – pets included!

Along with also amplifying the ever-growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, triclosan is linked to liver cancer and a decrease in thyroid hormones in laboratory animals, and it’s currently being studied to see if ups the risk of skin cancer. Yikes!

So, here’s what you need to do ASAP:

  • Check for any products in your home that contain triclosan and toss them. While most companies have already taken it out of hand and body soap, you may still have some in your purse or bathroom.
  • Read the ingredients of all personal-care products, and be wary of anything that claims to resist bacteria. And if you’ve been using Colgate Total with triclosan, you’ll need to toss your toothbrush, too, as the chemical can cling to the bristles. But while you’re in the toothpaste section, why not pick up one of many kinds that not only don’t contain triclosan, but are also fluoride-free as well?
  • Take similar precautions when shopping for clothing, toys, cutting boards, and utensils.

And remember, good old soap and hot water are your best bet for washing your hands and cleaning all of those other items that contain triclosan. Kitchen tools can go in the dishwasher, and your exercise gear and socks can be thoroughly cleaned in a good wash cycle.

But dangerous chemicals that may up your risk of cancer and a host of other ills are positively not required!

“Triclosan could be really harmful to your gut, and it’s probably in your toothpaste” Melissa Healy, May 31, 2018, Los Angeles Times, latimes.com