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Triclosan Controversy: Pesticide Use in Colgate Toothpaste

I read nonfiction, but I'd rather write humor. I am not perfect, nor am I consistent. I am a work in progress.

Sometimes not knowing how bad something is for you is worse than knowing something is bad and knowing how bad it is.  Take chocolate chip cookies for example.  I know cookies are bad for me, but that doesn't keep me from indulging.

Sometimes not knowing how bad something is for you is worse than knowing something is bad and knowing how bad it is. Take chocolate chip cookies for example. I know cookies are bad for me, but that doesn't keep me from indulging.

Fearing the Unknown Triclosin

Have you ever thought about the ingredients in your toothpaste? Some chemicals in toothpaste are difficult to pronounce, and their effects are especially hard to understand. Moms and dads give their children toothpaste thinking they are looking out for their young ones. Are they? Triclosan, an antibacterial chemical, has drawn some degree of controversy.

“Oh man,” I thought to myself as I watched the news, "I've gotta start using a different kind of toothpaste." I usually don’t watch the news because of the sensationalism. The hooks and commercial breaks are a bit much for me. Most of the news is presented to scare people. And the fear of the unknown is used often. The news people glue you to the tv with these strategies. That's why I used a provocative title for this article.

Anyway, I watched the news, got scared, changed toothpaste brands, and then did some research. I probably should have started with the research. All I heard on the news was that Triclosan, commonly used in hand soaps and other household products, may cause harmful hormones to be released.

My reaction was “Oh crap!” I knew that the very toothpaste that I was using contained Triclosan. My first thought was, that if it could be harmful on my hands, then it is likely to be at least as harmful in my mouth. Now I’m scared!

I switched to non-Triclosan-containing toothpaste within the week. Finally, I checked out various sites online to research how harmful Triclosan really is. Here's a summary of my three hours of online investigation. You be the judge and decide what to squirt on your toothbrush.

Triclosan Dangers

An updated article from the Washington Post gives the two-sided story of Triclosan. Those worried about health effects claim that Triclosan is too widely used and can disrupt endocrine function. "Triclosan can be found in 75% of the population's urine." Triclosan is used in many products.

Those who represent the health products manufacturing argue basically, "No it doesn't do anything harmful to you." Neither side can prove anything just yet, but every few months to a year a new article like this comes out. It's good to keep bringing it up because Triclosan should be used with some caution until longitudinal studies can prove it benign.

Activists' View of Triclosan

Activist sites such, as, list and explain an array of worries about antimicrobial pesticides. These include acute toxicity, chronic health effects, allergy link, dioxin link, resistance concerns, and environmental effects. Supporting evidence is cited in the article.

So, according to the activist sites, negative consequences of using Triclosan range from getting a rash on your skin to “detrimental effects on aquatic ecosystems.” They suggest using regular soap and water for everyday handwashing. As an alternative, they also suggest using essential oils such as Australian tee tree oil, grapefruit seed extract, and pine oil, which have antimicrobial properties.

Triclosan may reduce plaque, but what other things does it diminish?

Triclosan may reduce plaque, but what other things does it diminish?

Government Information About Triclosan

This was more difficult to sort out. The FDA lists Triclosan as one of a few trade names for cloxifenolum, a pesticide chemical used as a microbicide. Another common name is Microban. The FDA approved Colgate Total as the first toothpaste that reduces gum disease in 1997 because of its Triclosan additive. I was unable to find any FDA recalls listed about the product.

The EPA site included an explanation that the FDA is in charge of watching Triclosan’s use in hygiene products, while the EPA checks into environmental concerns. This includes uses in industry and textiles. I found some really interesting research on the docket link. Articles are included that break down toxicity in various wildlife species. The EPA will be re-evaluating Triclosan in 2013. This will be ten years earlier than originally planned.

The CDC conducted some studies using random sampling and found a couple of interesting things. Urine samples collected from people in their thirties who have the highest level of income, produced the most concentrated amounts of Triclosan compared to other age groups and socioeconomic statuses. A different CDC study included a link between households that use antibacterial soaps and the carrying of drug-resistant bacteria on their hands.

Professional Organization and Scholarly Stance on Triclosan

The ADA seal is included in the toothpaste I was using, but I was unable to find articles on the ADA website showing their approval. The Southern Association of Institutional Dentists did however include an article about the efficacy of Triclosan hours after use. Significant results were shown by the reduction of microorganisms in plaque, saliva, and on the tongue.

The Journal of Professional Excellence: Dimensions of Dental Hygiene site included an article titled, “Formulating Plaque Reduction,” which cited two studies indicating a reduction in plaque and gingivitis from the use of Triclosan.

Commercial Claims About Triclosan

Colgate claims twelve-hour protection in their Total line due to Triclosan held in place by a copolymer called Gantrez. Colgate has a patent on the combination, and explains that the Gantrez allows the Triclosan to be effective for longer periods of time by binding to mouth tissues.

Conclusions about the Product

Pros: Effectively kills bacteria, can be used in many products, and helps prevent gingivitis.

Cons: It May be harmful to aquatic ecosystems, may promote resistant bacteria growth, may cause developmental harm, may cause acute symptoms, may build up in our bodies, and needs more testing.

I was glad to find some degree of research on Triclosan, and the more I read the more I felt at ease about it. Just like getting to know someone better, I became less apprehensive about brushing my teeth with it.

I wouldn’t say that Triclosan and I are buddies yet. I am still concerned about its widespread use, and the potential environmental and health hazards that could accumulate over time. I guess everyone must research and decide what is most harmful in the end. We have to weigh the positives and negatives like everyone else, make our best-informed decision, and live (or not live) with the consequences.

Triclosan Sources on the Web

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


loshi amulongo on August 21, 2015:

bad people why sell the Colgate toothpaste if its harmfull shame

Blake Flannery (author) from United States on September 03, 2012:


Thanks for that link. This is updated information for sure.

Diana on September 03, 2012:

New research on triclosan shows how harmful it is:

Blake Flannery (author) from United States on May 08, 2012:


Thanks for the personal warning about Triclosan. I would love to know what it did to you though.

Anne on May 08, 2012:

I wont get into just what happened to me by using this product but I was essentially OVERDOSING on it . I am going to be posting my own experience with Triclosan so I really don't want to get into specifics here but I was using multiple forms of it and I can summarize that it had built up in my body and caused a VERY disturbing hormone imbalance, (I am female.) No it was nothing psychotic as I am sure some smart you-know-what will retort. Just to let you know there ARE people who have personal PROOF Triclosan is dangerous.

I cannot prove it to YOU as this would involve personal information. But I felt compelled to comment, take it or leave it people, but at your own risk.

Blake Flannery (author) from United States on May 07, 2012:


You're right about bacteria being our friend. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, and bacteria is responsible for gum disease as well as many diseases that kill people.

When you want some yogurt, then you definitely want your friendly bacterias.

Ravi on May 07, 2012:

I see bacteria is our friend... not any enemy.

Marilou Witmer on October 29, 2011:

I have been having big problems with very sore whiteheads around my mouth. I did everything to control it, but it continues to get worse. I changed to Colgate Total about 6 months ago and realize that my previous toothpaste did not contain triclosan. I now believe the Colgate Total is causing the trouble. Starting today I will be using Crest again and hope that my problem will be solved.

me on October 07, 2011:

don't trust the FDA

Tom on December 07, 2010:

Me and my wife had muscle and joint pain, she was told she might have fiber mi-alga. A friend of ours had similar problems and she said she had blood test and was over dosing on triclosan and she asked my wife if we used toothpaste with triclosan in it...we did. We stopped using it and I can't believe how much better we feel. We are 41 and 42 and we couldn't understand why we felt like we where 80. It is like the triclosan was making our aches and pains 100 times worse.

anonymous on November 12, 2010:

Great article. Thanks for presenting the information upfront and in an objective manner.

k.m.priyadarsanan on June 17, 2010:

This article is very informative. Triclosan needs a relook.Here is a substance which gets converted to DIOXINS,the most toxic carcinogens, by the mere action of sunlight on it. When irradiated with U V light,at the Mississippi river, 1-12% of triclosan got converted to a dioxin, in a study which was funded by the US Geological Srvey which reported earlier that 58% of natural waters in the country carry triclosan.

Cassandra Mantis from UK and Nerujenia on October 11, 2009:

Wow, this is an interesting Hub. In the UK, we tend to have the Flouride variety of toothpaste. I guess, there's the Triclosan type, which I have never tried, and then Flouride based product...which I have tried...and what else? Mouth wash? It always seems to be some kind of trade off, you seem to have to risk getting some possibly not-so-good chemicals in your system just to have fresh clean teeth. Its always a balance, isn't it? I once stupidly gargled with a heavy concentrated Gargle of a certain Mouthwash for 20 seconds, and it nearly set my mouth on fire. I had to gargle a pint of water just to kill the sting in it.

I think its an okay thing to question just what it is companies put in our tooth cleaning / freshening products. I'm thinking of doing a hub about some Hair Shampoos as good "Paint Removers", after the pain on a window sill where I place the shampoo bottle started peeling paint! Try that for laughs!

jim loomis on September 25, 2009:

"inclusion of triclosan in toothpaste comes with known benefits which are minor."

Known benefits might not be minor.

Toxoplasmosis Gondii (TG) in humans leads to significant changes in 4 human psycho-biological indices. Triclosan kills TG.

Ron on August 23, 2009:

Like you, I hate The Media's fear mongering. And I commend you on trying to take a balanced and scientific approach to this. (I'm neither anti- nor pro-triclosan.) But your conclusion makes me question your logic.

Inclusion of Triclosan in toothpaste comes with known benefits which are minor. It also comes with potential, plausible effects which are negative and severe. That tradeoff makes you feel more "at ease" about putting it in your mouth and in our water? Not me; I'll pass on the Triclosan until there's some data to convince me that it's safe and is worth a miniscule benefit.

Waren E from HAS LEFT THE BUILDING............ on August 21, 2009:

I always had a feeling triclosan was something I should avoid,

I've seen it in most deoderants I've bought from time to time,great hub!?

Shubhadevi on August 09, 2009:

You have shared a useful information in this hub. I too avoid it and will tell to all my friends about it.

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on March 26, 2009:

Great hub. I avoid triclosan because it's a suspected endocrine disruptor. Since I'm happy with my hormone balance, I try to avoid anything that messes with that. :)