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Daily News Blog

26
Jan

Antibacterial Triclosan Accumulates in Toothbrush Bristles

(Beyond Pesticides, January 26, 2018) Triclosan may be on its way out in soaps and disinfectants, but its presence on toothbrushes could stick around for a long time, according to research published in Environmental Science and Technology by a group of scientists from University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass Amherst). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of over the counter triclosan-containing soap in 2016, and late last year extended the ban to include health care and hospital settings, but the toxic antibacterial can still be found in toothpaste and other consumer products. Many may have have checked their toothpaste label and switched to a non-triclosan toothpaste after the recent news, but scientists say that exposure to this persistent chemical may continue through toothbrushes, if triclosan toothpaste was previously used.

To test triclosan absorption while brushing, researchers purchased 22 different toothbrushes, each with different components, from bristles only, to those with polishing cups, gum protectors, or tongue cleaners. Different toothpastes, including six with and 15 without triclosan, were also used.  A mixture used to imitate saliva was added to toothpaste and put into a vial that was then brushed with different toothbrushes over a 3 month period – the recommended average life of a toothbrush. The level of triclosan remaining on each toothbrush after brushing was determined by subtracting the amount originally applied by the amount that ended up in the toothpaste/saliva mixture after brushing.

Researchers found that most brushes did accumulate triclosan during the brushing process. However, those with additional components, such as polishing cups, tongue cleaners, or gum protectors, took in more triclosan than a regular brush-head toothbrush. Triclosan was initially absorbed at higher rates during the first several brushes, with a general decrease over the three month brushing period. However, toothbrushes with gum protectors, which are marketed to children to protect their sensitive gums, showed a more sustained absorption of triclosan over time when compared to other brush heads.

Triclosan is highly toxic and related to a number of human health impacts. The chemical has been widely detected in the human bodies, with one study showing 100% of pregnant women in Brooklyn, NY testing positive for the chemical in their urine. Triclosan can to pass from a pregnant mother to her fetus, and the chemical’s ability to disrupt the endocrine (hormone) system has led to concerns over its potential to complicate fetal growth and development.  Although originally purported to be a solution to tough bacteria, studies have found the opposite to be true. Its inability to be filtered by water treatment plants means that it finds its way into local rivers and streams, where research shows it alters stream communities and actually increases bacterial resistance.  Individuals exposed to triclosan are, in fact, more likely to carry worrisome staph bacteria. Triclosan contributes broadly to the worldwide crisis in bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Given this overwhelming evidence of danger, it is no surprise that over 200 scientists from around the world called on limits to the use of the chemical last year.

While those first hearing about the hazards that triclosan poses may take a second look at their toothpaste package and decide to change brands, UMass research indicates the need to go a step further. Triclosan absorbed into toothbrush heads was in fact released back into the mixture when switching from a triclosan to a non-triclosan toothpaste.

Thus, the only way to avoid triclosan exposure after using it on a toothbrush is to throw it away and purchase a new toothbrush or brush head. While limited data has shown that triclosan may alleviate some issues concerning gingivitis, there are viable alternatives, such as essential oils, such as thymol, menthol, and eucolyptol, that can do a good job at addressing gum disease without putting one at risk of other health effects.

The Colgate Total line of toothpastes remain the most popular brand of triclosan-containing toothpastes, however consumers should read the labels on their toothpaste packages to ensure their product does not contain this harmful chemical.

As FDA phases out triclosan in hand soaps, and consumers become more aware of the product in popular toothpastes, a range of concerning uses still remain. While FDA regulates personal cosmetics, EPA regulates other consumer goods, such as clothing, school products, like pencils, kitchenware, and other items where triclosan may be incorporated into the product in order to sell it as “antimicrobial.” Avoid items that use these keywords or indicate they contain Microban, as it is likely to contain triclosan or another hazardous antibacterial.

If you find triclosan in a product you use, take a stand against by telling that retailer to stop using triclosan products. To assist, Beyond Pesticides has a sample letter available for you to send. And for more information, including additional toxicity information and a comprehensive timeline of Beyond Pesticides fight to remove triclosan from the marketplace, see the article FDA 2016 Decision and History on the triclosan program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: ScienceNewsforStudents

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  • Archives

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