A Sticky Situation Of Triclosan And Toothbrushes

Scientists have found that the antimicrobial compound triclosan sticks to toothbrushes, with implications for health, antibiotic resistance and environmental leaching.

AsianScientist (Oct. 30, 2017) – In a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, scientists have discovered that an antimicrobial compound called triclosan sticks to toothbrushes. Hence, individuals may be unnecessarily subjected to prolonged exposure to triclosan.

Past research has demonstrated that triclosan has the potential to disrupt hormones in animals and humans, contribute to antibiotic resistance and cause acute toxicity to aquatic organisms. In light of the reported adverse effects and the lack of scientific evidence on its benefits over plain soap and water, the US Food and Drug Administration banned triclosan in antiseptic washes. However, the ruling does not apply to toothpaste and other products, including clothing and cookware.

In this study, a group of researchers led by Professor Xing Baoshan at the University of Massachusetts in the US demonstrated that triclosan sticks to materials commonly used on commercial toothbrush heads.

The researchers simulated toothbrushing with a range of commercial brushes and pastes. Their testing showed that more than one third of the 22 toothbrushes tested, including two children’s varieties, accumulated significant amounts of triclosan equivalent to seven to 12 doses of the amount used per brushing. Toothbrushes with ‘polishing cups’ or ‘cheek and tongue cleaners,’ typically made of a class of materials called elastomers, absorbed the largest amounts.

The researchers then switched to triclosan-free toothpastes but continued to use the same brushes. Triclosan was continuously released from the toothbrushes over the next two weeks. This release could lead to a user receiving prolonged exposure to triclosan and other products that previously had not been accounted for, even after switching toothpastes.

Additionally, regular landfill disposal of used toothbrushes that have accumulated triclosan could result in the chemical leaching into the environment. The study also raises broader questions about the design of consumer products—particularly those used for personal care—that contain absorptive polymer components.

The article can be found at: Han et al. (2017) Nylon Bristles and Elastomers Retain Centigram Levels of Triclosan and Other Chemicals from Toothpastes: Accumulation and Uncontrolled Release.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Pexels.
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