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Colgate-Palmolive "Total®" Toothpaste Safe?
There has never been a public relations blitz like it in the history of advertising. Colgate-Palmolive is betting the store that the public will be convinced to change their brushing habits to use Total toothpaste, which contains the anti-bacterial chemical "triclosan." The company claims that the bacteria-inhibiting action of Triclosan not only prevents gingivitis but also cavities. Here is a small sample of the PR campaign, from the Colgate-Palmolive website:
But is Triclosan safe? Colgate-Palmolive claims that it is. But some environmental health activists are not so sure. Triclosan is one of a class of chemicals called chlorinated aromatics, containing one or more benzene rings with one or more chlorine atoms bound to carbon atoms. Triclosan's chemical name is 2,4,4'-trichloro 2'-hydroxy diphenyl ether, which is a complicated way of saying that it has two benzene rings bound in the middle by an oxygen atom, 3 chlorine atoms bound to carbon atoms, and a hydroxy radical (oxygen and hydrogen):
What is worrisome about triclosan to some environmental health advocates is that its chemical formulation and molecular structure are very close to some of the most toxic chemicals on earth, the chlorinated dioxins and furans (referred to simply as "dioxin") and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). For instance, the most toxic form of dioxin, called TCDD, has two benzene rings bound in the middle with two oxygen atoms, with four chlorine atoms.
Furthermore, it is common in the manufacture of chlorinated aromatics that the resultant chemical products are often contaminated with super-toxic dioxin. This is the case, for instance, for hexachlorophene, once a popular anti-bacterial skin cleanser, but now primarily used only in hospitals. This is because the chemical processes that are used to make chlorinated aromatic chemicals are also often the perfect environment for dioxin formation. Dioxin has toxic effects in the parts per trillion - one drop in 300 Olympic-size swimming pools - because it is a powerful hormone-disrupting chemical.
Colgate-Palmolive claims that Triclosan is safe, but to our knowledge has made no claims one way or the other about contamination by other chlorinated organic chemicals.
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