Have you ever read the ingredients list for your toothpaste? Would you even know what half of those ingredients are?
Chances are you wouldn’t — and why would you? You’re not a biochemist. And when a new and improved whitening toothpaste formula comes out, do you hear about the chemical components of the product, or do you hear how white it will make your teeth?
So if I told you that your toothpaste might contain “triclosan,” well, that probably wouldn’t mean anymore than if I told you that your plastic garbage bags might contain triclosan. And both might be true — depending on which brand you use.
Triclosan is a chemical added to a number of personal hygiene products for its anti-bacterial properties. It’s the bacteria killer found in hand soap, dish soap, deodorants, lotions, and even toothpastes. Chances are that if it’s marketed as being anti-bacterial, it likely contains triclosan.
But is triclosan safe?
Almost as soon as anti-bacterial soap and non-alcohol based hand sanitizers hit the market, there have been studies disproving their usefulness. Studies have shown that anti-bacterial soaps are not more effective than regular soap combined with proper washing. But they can also have the opposite effect and create “super” bacteria, which become resistant to regular bacteria-killing products and could pose a much larger threat.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has registered triclosan as a pesticide. Yet the manufacturers who use it in personal hygiene and beauty products maintain that it is safe.
Studies have shown that when mixed with chlorine in tap water, triclosan creates a gas which is considered a probable carcinogen. Toothpaste containing triclosan had the same result when used with tap water.
It should be noted that the amount of gas produced is minimal. However, triclosan, when washed down the drain, persistently remains and later shows up in farmer’s fields and water run-offs.
So while having a minor amount of triclosan in your toothpaste may not pose an immediate danger to you, if every household uses one or two products containing triclosan on a regular basis, the end result could be that triclosan starts turning up in our food sources as well. Studies, however, have not yet been done on this.
So the next time you’re buying a fresh tube of toothpaste, read the ingredients carefully. Products containing triclosan must indicate this on the label, however, it may appear under a brand name, such as “Microban.”
As for that anti-bacterial soap — it’s just a fancy advertising gimmick. Unless you work in a hospital or bacterial-laden environment, you really aren’t doing anything that an old- fashioned bar of soap and proper hand washing couldn’t do.
Be sure to lather up well and use warm water. Rub your hands together for at least 15 seconds away from the water. Be sure to get all surfaces; front, back, between your fingers, and under your nails. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
And if what you’re trying to avoid by using anti-bacterial soap is getting sick, remember that colds are spread by viruses, not bacteria — so that anti-bacterial soap isn’t helping you anyway.