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Toxic Toothpaste?

A presentation in Larchmont April 4 will focus on environmental toxins and children.

For example, if your kids crave one of those fresh-tasting, minty toothpastes, you might want to think twice before choosing one.  The active ingredient in several widely sold brands, like Colgate Total,  is an antibacterial agent called triclosan, whose health risks are under investigation by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency is expected to make new recommendations on the safety of triclosan this spring.

Many  environmental health groups also have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate triclosan in toothpaste and other consumer products because it has been linked to cancer, developmental defects, and liver and inhalation toxicity. For young children, in particular, it may be toxic to the thyroid and affect other hormone systems.

Triclosan is one of thousands of chemicals that have not been tested for safety by the government. “Children are more vulnerable than adults, pound for pound,” according to environmental health expert and pediatrician, Dr. Maida P. Galvez of the Mount Sinai Medical School Children’s Health Center. To address these safety concerns, more than a dozen local groups are sponsoring a  free, upcoming lecture by Dr. Galvez focused on protecting children from a wide range of environmental toxins. The talk will be held on Monday, April 4, 2011 at 7:30 PM at the Hommocks Middle School.

Colgate's Total toothpaste contains triclosan, an antibacterial agent.

Triclosan is now in hundreds of personal care products, like hand sanitizers, soaps, and deodorants.  But what’s it doing in toothpaste? Well, it seems to be in some products that claim to prevent gingivitis. But oral health experts at the Mayo Clinic say gingivitis can be treated by regular dental checkups, brushing and flossing. And for young children who don’t have gingivitis, certainly there’s no reason to get a daily dose of triclosan.

You can easily avoid toothpastes with triclosan by checking their “active ingredient” labels. For example, regular Colgate doesn’t have it. And if you look for toothpastes that don’t claim to fight gingivitis, then those probably won’t have it.

As for all the other products with triclosan and antibacterial agents in general, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Guide to Triclosan can help you sort through the risks and identify those products to avoid.

Bottom line: the FDA advises that washing or cleaning with antibacterials doesn’t have any greater benefits than using plain old soap and water.


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