An agent used in a variety of cosmetics products could increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, according to a study published yesterday.
Specifically, products that include an ingredient called triclosan could take a toll on your bone health.
Triclosan used to be more common in toothpastes and soaps, but there has been a push to eliminate it due to claims that it can negatively affect your health.
The new research, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, suggests that triclosan might be harmful for our bones . But should you be concerned about how much triclosan you’re being exposed to everyday? We spoke to an expert to find out.
What is triclosan?
Triclosan can be found in soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and hand sanitizers. It’s an antimicrobial, meaning it can kill microorganisms like bacteria. Triclosan does have some benefits. For example, it can help with plaque removal and gingivitis, Anne Clemons, DMD, who works in dentistry at the Cleveland Clinic, tells Health.
This new research doesn’t mark the first time experts have been worried about triclosan’s effects on consumers. “There have been concerns and questions about triclosan [and] some idea that there may be a link directly to osteoporosis. The overall health effects are something we’ve been aware of,” Dr. Clemons says.
What does the new research say?
For the new report, researchers relied on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers looked at the level of triclosan found in the urine samples of thousands of participants.
They found that women with a higher concentration of triclosan in their urine were more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. The risk is greater for postmenopausal women, the study authors said.
Osteoporosis causes one’s bones to become so brittle that they can be fractured by low amounts of stress put on them, even an aggressive cough. Common symptoms are back pain, stooped posture, and decreased height.
What does this mean for you?
As of the beginning of this year, none of the major toothpaste manufacturers were selling toothpastes that include triclosan, Dr. Clemons says.
The main one that experts were worried about was Colgate Total, but at the beginning of 2019 Colgate revealed a new Colgate Total formulation that was triclosan-free, she adds. So if you’ve purchased the toothpaste you’re currently using within the last few months, chances are you’re in the clear on that front.
But should you worry about using hand sanitizers, soaps, or other products with triclosan? You don’t necessarily need to purge your shelves, Dr. Clemons says. Rather, note the association between osteoporosis and triclosan and keep an eye out for future research on the ingredient, which is still FDA-approved.
“Taking one headline and going with that is pretty dangerous. The scientists studying this don’t know everything. The FDA and the [American Dental Association] haven’t concluded that [triclosan] is unsafe in toothpaste,” Dr. Clemons says.
She notes that future research is needed to fully understand the pros and cons of triclosan, saying, “it’s going to take a lot more study” to comprehend whether or not we need to avoid triclosan altogether.
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