The Colgate Total Cancer Scare- Media Hype or Something More?

On August 11, a Bloomberg article spiked concerns surrounding the use of the chemical triclosan in the popular toothpaste Colgate Total. The chemical has been linked by the FDA to both cancer-cell growth and disrupted development, and has even been banned in Minnesota from use in numerous products . According to Thomas Zoeller, professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, there are approximately 800 to 1000 chemicals capable of disrupting the endocrine system, of which triclosan is one that individuals are exposed to on a day to day basis.

Colgate claims its Total product is safe, however a 35-page toxicology report looking at triclosan, it is apparent the FDA’s approval is reliant on company-backed science to determine the safety of the new drug. For this reason, officials are questioning the accuracy behind the original testing of Total that took place in 1997. A major concern for scientists is the evidence within the toxicology report indicating bone malformations in rodents, indicating a disruption to the endocrine system. As stated by Zoeller,

We have created a system where we are testing these chemicals out on the human population. I love the idea they are all safe… But when we have studies on animals that suggest otherwise, I think we’re taking a huge risk.”

Since these concerns have become public, Colgate has fought back citing numerous studies and trials confirming the safety of Total. Specifically, a recent 2013 review by the Cochrane Oral Health Group indicated no safety concerns for the product. Yet, consumers are wary suggested by Total’s 2% loss of its market share in 2013 while Colgate’s natural brand, Tom’s of Maine gained 14%.

Before the over-hyped headlines declaring “cancer-causing chemical found in toothpaste” terrify too many consumers, it is important to point out that while there is a link, the link has yet to be fully determined. In addition, further more, as mentioned, triclosan is a chemical to which the public is exposed on a regular basis. Furthermore, the chemical is included in the product because it is effective in treating and preventing gingivitis, a disease that the Center for Disease control reports effecting approximately half of Americans over the age of 30.

With this in mind, consumers are urged to educate themselves about the possible effects of triclosan, as well as the extent of such effects. Click the link below to read the FDA published article on Triclosan.

Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know


Read more here- “Colgate Total Ingredient Linked to Hormones, Cancer Spotlights FDA Process,” (Tiffany Kay, Bloomberg)

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Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.


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