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Triclosan study not relevant to toothpaste
Posted April 29, 2005

By Mark Berthold

Recent news reports, interpreting a new study on chlorine disinfection in water treatment plants, have also called into question the safety of some household products that contain triclosan, including toothpaste.

However, "the ADA does not believe this laboratory study, as designed and conducted, is relevant to toothpaste," says Dr. Daniel Meyer, associate executive director, ADA Division of Science.

Photo: Dr. Peter Vikesland  
Dr. Vikesland


In addition, he says, "the ADA believes that current formulations of triclosan-containing toothpastes are safe and effective for their intended purpose, when used as directed."

The study's lead author agrees.

"Our work never examined toothpaste," says Peter Vikesland, Ph.D., of Virginia Polytechnic and State University. "We did a laboratory study predominantly with pure triclosan and chlorinated water, and some work with triclosan-containing dishwashing soaps."

Dr. Vikesland notes, "It's highly premature to conclude that there is a direct relationship between triclosan-containing toothpaste and our laboratory studies of triclosan and triclosan-containing dish soaps."

Published online in Environmental Science and Technology, the study looked at the interaction of chlorine and triclosan, and whether chloroform might be produced when water at treatment plants is disinfected by using high concentrations of free chlorine.

Triclosan, the study also observed, is commonly used as an antiseptic in household and personal-care products, such as deodorants, hand and dishwashing soaps and toothpastes.

The study's mention of triclosan had prompted inquiries to the ADA by some dentists and consumers about whether toothpastes that contain triclosan at 0.3 percent might pose a health risk.

But this study, notes Dr. Meyer, "does not demonstrate that triclosan-containing toothpaste in the presence of drinking water will produce chloroform or pose any health hazards."

He adds, "water purification in a treatment plant under simulated laboratory conditions with elevated amounts of chlorine vs. toothbrushing with tap or bottled water — they are significantly different conditions."

Dr. Vikesland concludes, "It is highly premature to presume that there is a problem associated with the use of triclosan-containing toothpastes. In order for the reactions that we studied to occur, you would need excess amounts of chlorine — which usually doesn't occur when you are brushing your teeth, which is a little bit of tap water, a lot of toothpaste and saliva."

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