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Triclosan in Your Oral Hygiene Products? It May Promote Colon Cancer

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Do you know what’s in your toothpaste? It may include a controversial chemical called triclosan.

Walk-through colon image by A Healthier Michigan, via Flickr

Numerous concerns have been raised about its safety and effectiveness. Now, a study just published in Science Translational Medicine adds to them by showing that it may promote colon cancer.

Researchers used mice to test the effects of small doses of triclosan on the colon. As Medical News Today reported,

In all mouse models used, triclosan prompted inflammation of the colon, worsened symptoms of colitis (inflammation of the lining of the colon) and promoted colitis-associated tumor growth.

The effect of triclosan on the colon appears to stem from changes in the gut microbiome, as germ-free mice didn’t suffer the same ill-effects as those with a microbiome.

As one of the study authors noted,

Because this compound is so widely used, our study suggests that there is an urgent need to further evaluate the impact of triclosan exposure on gut health in preparation for the potential establishment of further regulatory policies.

Triclosan is found in countless consumer products as an antiseptic, preservative, or disinfectant. These include personal hygiene products, plastics, toys, paints, medical devices, textiles, and more. However, since 2016, it has been banned by the FDA for use in hand soaps and body washes.

So what is it still doing in some toothpastes?

Colgate was able to convince the FDA that the benefits of triclosan in their Colgate Total paste outweigh any risks.

But is that really the case?

One big concern about its use in toothpaste is that it disrupts both the oral and intestinal microbiomes. After all, triclosan kills off helpful bacteria along with harmful microbes, and the helpful ones help keep the harmful in check. When the harmful run riot, tooth decay and gum disease result. It may also pave the way for antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” to develop and spread.

Other studies have found that it may disrupt hormone signaling, specifically thyroid, testosterone, and estrogen regulation, which could cause a host of subtle developmental issues in exposed children. And after the chemicals are flushed down the drain, researchers have found them messing up the microbial communities that break down sewage in wastewater treatment plants.

There’s also evidence that exposure to triclosan may also disrupt the immune system. If so, using it to kill germs may cause us to be more defenseless against other germs to which we are exposed.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to avoid triclosan simply because it has been so heavily used. Nevertheless, it is vital to your health to avoid it as much as possible – especially in products that are used internally, such as toothpastes.

Check the ingredients in any toothpaste and other oral health products you use to make sure that they do not include triclosan. Plenty of triclosan-free options are available – options that are also free of fluoride and other problem ingredients. Or you can make your own. Here’s one easy recipe you can try.

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