Colgate Total Toothpaste – Triclosan Scare


Triclosan, an active ingredient in Colgate Total toothpaste, has been linked to cancer-cell growth and disrupted development in animals, according to a recent Bloomberg news article – ‘Colgate Total Ingredient Linked to Hormones, Cancer Spotlights FDA Process’ by Tiffany Kary on Aug 11, 2014 [1]. The article also says that regulators are reviewing whether it’s safe to put in soap, cutting boards and toys.

Triclosan (2,4,4’-trichloro-2’-hydroxydiphenyl ether) is a synthetic chemical that has been used as an antibacterial/antimicrobial ingredient in a wide variety of antibacterial soaps and body washes, dishwashing liquids, toothpastes, cosmetics, deodorants, fabrics, plastics, and other products since 1972 [2]. Triclosan is also marketed under the trade name Microban® when used in plastics and clothing, and Biofresh® when used in acrylic fibers. List of products containing Triclosan is shown in Table 1 below.

Perhaps, triclosan has been one of the most controversial ingredients in regards to its safety concerns.

Scientists have raised concerns about triclosan for decades. According to the article by Glasser in 2004 [2], studies have increasingly linked triclosan to a range of health and environmental effects, from skin irritation, allergy susceptibility, bacterial and compounded antibiotic resistant, and dioxin contamination to destruction of fragile aquatic ecosystems. Concerns about triclosan have even led some manufacturers, such as Tom’s of Maine, to specifically state that their toothpaste products do not contain triclosan.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declares that triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans, although animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation, saying that data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans [3]. At this time, however, FDA informs that there is no evidence that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), based on its 2008 risk assessment, concluded that the antimicrobial uses of triclosan (e.g., triclosan-treated plastic and textile items in households) are unlikely to contribute significant quantities of triclosan into household wastewater and eventually in surface water [4].

The Government of Canada proposes that triclosan is safe for human health within identified maximum limits (0.03% for mouthwashes and 0.3% for others), but can be harmful to the environment [5]. That is, its preliminary assessment shows that while personal care products, non-prescription drug products and natural health products containing triclosan do not pose a risk to human health, as toothpastes, soaps and other items are rinsed off and washed down the drain, the amount of triclosan that is released into the environment can affect plants and animals in lakes, streams and rivers.

Meanwhile, in March 2010, the European Union banned triclosan from any products that may come into contact with food [6]. According to a consumer report in South Korea, aired on Aug 01, 2014 [7], there have been complaints by consumers who experienced acute pains in gum after using a toothpaste containing triclosan, and the problem was resolved after the manufacture recently substituted triclosan with a natural antibacterial ingredient.

Over the recent years, consumer product manufacturers have been voluntarily removing triclosan from their products, in responses to public concerns about the potential hazards from this controversial ingredient. In May, 2014, Minnesota even voted to ban it in many products, and the ban will be effective Jan. 1, 2017.


Colgate-Palmolive, however, continues to use triclosan in its Colgate Total toothpaste as an active ingredient to fight gingivitis since FDA approved the use of triclosan and the health claim in Colgate in 1997. The company claims that the safety and efficacy of Colgate Total toothpaste is fully supported by over 70 clinical studies in over 10,000 patients. By the way, not all Colgate tooth pastes contain triclosan.


Apparently, triclosan provides some health benefits in non-prescription drug products, such as its use in toothpaste to protect against gingivitis. Triclosan also works well as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care products, non-prescription drugs and natural health products to prevent or slow down bacterial growth and protect products from spoilage.

But, there have been numerous evidence that triclosan can be harmful to the environments as it can affect many types of freshwater organisms even at very low concentrations. It and a related chemical, triclocarban, were detected in 90 percent of surface water samples from the Great Lakes and in many fish species, according to a July 2014 study by the Canadian Environmental Law Association [2, 5].

Moreover, triclosan is lipophilic, so it can bioaccumulate in fatty tissues. In another words, triclosan does get absorbed into the body, often in high quantities [2]. Over 80% of Americans have detectable levels of triclosan in their urine, although no health risks have been proven yet [5].

The officials in USA, Canada, and EU claim that triclosan, when used under the concentrations of current legal limits, poses no harm to human health. But, it is natural to think twice about the safety of triclosan-containing toothpastes as it is like we literally put the controversial chemical in our mouth every single day, letting it accumulate in our body. Moreover, it is difficult to disregard that animal studies found that triclosan acts as an endocrine disruptor. Also, the long-term effect of the triclosan toothpaste usage is yet to be revealed, considering its relatively short presence in the market, which is less than 20 years.

As a consumer, it is necessary to weigh the benefits and risks of the products or drugs usage.Can we get any additional benefits from using triclosan-containing products over other alternatives?” Not really, for most cases, if not all. “What would be the risks of using triclosan-containing products?” We create the hazards to the environment, which in turn will likely become the risks to human health later. No imminent harm does not necessarily mean no harm in the long run.

Perhaps, there is no reason to be scared of using triclosan-containing products. Nonetheless, it would be wise to limit the usage of it for the sake of protecting our environment as well as lowering the potential health risks from over-accumulating triclosan in our body.


Table 1. List of Products Containing Triclosan [2]*
SOAPS: Dial® Liquid Soap; Softsoap® Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap; Tea Tree TherapyTM Liquid Soap; Provon® Soap; Clearasil® Daily Face Wash; Dermatologica ® Skin Purifying Wipes; Clean & Clear Oil Free Foaming Facial Cleanser; DermaKleenTM Antibacterial Lotion Soap; Naturade Aloe Vera 80® Antibacterial Soap; CVS Antibacterial Soap, pHisoderm Antibacterial Skin Cleanser, Dawn® Complete Antibacterial Dish Liquid, Ajax® Antibacterial Dish Liquid.
DENTAL CARE: Colgate Total®; BreezeTM Triclosan Mouthwash; Reach® Antibacterial Toothbrush; Janina Diamond Whitening Toothpaste
COSMETICS: Supre® Café BronzerTM; TotalSkinCare Makeup Kit; Garden Botanika® Powder Foundation; Mavala Lip Base; Jason Natural Cosmetics; Blemish Cover Stick; Movate® Skin Litening Cream HQ; Paul Mitchell Detangler Comb, Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss, Dazzle
DEODORANT: Old Spice High Endurance Stick Deodorant, Right Guard Sport Deodorant Queen Helene® Tea Trea Oil Deodorant and Aloe Deodorant; Nature De France Le Stick Natural Stick Deodorant; DeCleor Deodorant Stick; Epoch® Deodorant with Citrisomes; X Air Maximum Strength Deodorant
OTHER PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS: Gillette® Complete Skin Care MultiGel Aerosol Shave Gel; Murad Acne Complex® Kit, ®; Diabet-xTM Cream; T.TaioTM sponges and wipes, Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel.
FIRST AID: SyDERMA® Skin Protectant plus First Aid Antiseptic; Solarcaine® First Aid Medicated Spray;NexcareTM First Aid, Skin Crack Care; First Aid/Burn Cream; HealWell® Night Splint; Splint 11-1X1: Universal Cervical Collar with Microban
KITCHENWARE: Farberware® Microban Steakknife Set and Cutting Boards; Franklin Machine Products FMP Ice Cream Scoop SZ 20 Microban; Hobart Semi-Automatic Slicer; Chix® Food Service Wipes with Microban; Compact Web Foot® Wet Mop Heads
COMPUTER EQUIPMENT: Fellowes Cordless Microban Keyboard and Microban Mouse Pad
CLOTHES: Teva® Sandals; Merrell Shoes; Sabatier Chef‘s Apron; Dickies Socks; Biofresh® socks
CHILDRENS TOYS: Playskool®: Stack ‘n Scoop Whale, Rockin’ Radio, Hourglass, Sounds Around Driver, Roll ‘n Rattle Ball, Animal Sounds Phone, Busy Beads Pal, Pop ‘n Spin Top, Lights ‘n Surprise Laptop
OTHER: Bionare® Cool Mist Humidifier; Microban® All Weather Reinforced Hose; Thomasville® Furniture; Deciguard AB Ear Plugs; Bauer® 5000 Helmet; Aquatic Whirlpools; Miller Paint Interior Paint; QVC® Collapsible 40-Can Cooler; Holmes Foot BuddyTM Foot Warmer, Blue Mountain Wall Coverings, California Paints®, EHC AMRail Escalator Handrails, DupontTM Air Filters, DurelleTM Carpet Cushions, Advanta One Laminate Floors, San Luis Blankets, J Cloth® towels, JERMEX mops

* Note that the list was as of 2004 and it is shown here for the reference purpose only. Some of the products in the list are known to be reformulated following consumer demands. Please check the individual product labels for the current up-to-date information.



[1] Tiffany Kary, Colgate Total Ingredient Linked to Hormones, Cancer Spotlights FDA Process, Aug 11, 2014.

[2] Glasser, A. Triclosan, the ubiquitous antibacterial agent. Pesticides and You. Beyond Pesticides/ National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides. Vol.24, No.3, 2004, 12.

[3] FDA, Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know

[4] EPA, Triclosan Facts

[5] Government of Canada, Triclosan – Questions and Answers

[6] Triclosan, White Paper prepared by The Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA), January 2011.

[7] Korean)


(Originally published by Dr Miki at in August, 2014)

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