Question: What can you tell me about the toothpaste ingredient triclosan? I understand it may be dangerous. How can I avoid it?
Dr. Brownstein's Answer:
Triclosan is a chlorinated, antibacterial chemical that is found in toothpaste and many other household products, including:
• Cleaning supplies
• Hair products
• Kitchen utensils
• Liquid hand soaps
• Shaving cream
• Trash bags
Triclosan is a known endocrine disrupter that has been shown to depress thyroid hormone concentrations. In fact, in a study, rats that were fed different doses of triclosan for 31 days were found to have a decrease in T4 (thyroid hormone) concentrations that varied along with the amounts they consumed.
Furthermore, there were significant increases in liver weights with increasing triclosan doses, according to a study appearing in the journal Toxic Science in 2008. Pregnant rats exposed to triclosan had a nearly one-third reduction in thyroid hormone in another study in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in 2008. In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (2003-2004), triclosan was detected in 75 percent of people studied. Interestingly, the highest levels were found in subjects with the highest incomes. Detectable levels of triclosan were also found in breast milk.
Because triclosan is an endocrine disrupter, you would think the American Dental Association would be concerned about this substance being in toothpaste. However, the ADA provides its seal of approval to many different brands of toothpaste that contain triclosan. In fact, the ADA states that “ ... triclosan reduce(s) gingivitis, a mild inflammation of the gum tissue.”
I have no doubt that triclosan has some antibacterial effects. But I also have no doubt that continual usage of triclosan will result in triclosan-resistant bacteria. I say it is best to avoid toothpaste with triclosan.
Avoiding triclosan is not easy, as it is so widespread. However, there are some basic steps that you can take to minimize your exposure. First, use toothpaste that does not contain triclosan. I recommend Spry toothpaste as a good choice. Avoiding liquid soap is also prudent. Generally, liquid soaps that are advertised as antibacterial contain triclosan. I use Trader Joe’s brand “Next To Godliness, With Essential Oils.” There are also bar soaps made with essential oils and unrefined salt that generally do not contain triclosan. I use Appalachian Natural Soaps at my office and at home.