What’s In My Toothpaste?

Common cosmetic ingredient might be involved in allergy development

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Have you ever read your toothpaste’s ingredient list? Probably not. But if you did, you’d most likely find triclosan on the list.

Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent that is used in many personal care products like toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash and cosmetics. It’s also used in some household cleaning products.

Though its purpose is to get rid of germs, some researchers are concerned that triclosan could be responsible for childhood allergy development.

A new study from Norway shows children who have high levels of triclosan in their systems have a higher chance of suffering from allergies.

"Consult your pediatrician for advice about allergies."

Randi J. Bertelsen, PhD, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and National Institute of Health led the study to find out if children in Norway who were exposed to the chemical triclosan had a higher chance of developing allergies by the age of ten.

Researchers collected urine samples from 623 ten year olds that had been part of a longer asthma study. Of the total study participants, 294 were girls and 329 were boys. Their median age was 10.7 years old.

The children were asked to collect their urine sample first thing in the morning on the day they would visit the study clinic. The samples were tested to see how much triclosan they contained.

At the clinic, the children were given skin prick and blood tests to see what kind of allergic reactions they had. Researchers tested for indoor, seasonal and food allergies.

Children were also asked about any allergic symptoms they had like sneezing or runny nose when they didn’t have a cold.

The children’s caretakers were asked if the child had any history of asthma symptoms like wheezing or chest tightness. Some children were asked to breathe into a machine that measures how much force their lungs have. Others had their breath measured after exercising.

Allergies were found in 210 children. Overall, 193 children had allergic reactions to things they could inhale. Of those allergic children, 92 also had food allergies.

Boys were more likely than girls to have allergic symptoms.

Among the children with current sinus issues, 73 percent tested positive for allergic reactions. Fifty-seven percent of the children with current asthma had reactions to at least one of the allergic triggers.

A little under half of the children had high levels of triclosan in their urine.

Among the 210 children with allergic reactions, 52 percent had triclosan detected in their urine. Of the 392 children without allergic reactions, 44 percent had urine with detectable levels of triclosan.

Children with the highest levels of triclosan in their urine were two times more likely to have allergic symptoms than children without high triclosan levels.

There was no significant relationship between the amount of triclosan found in the children’s urine and whether or not they had asthma.

The association the Norwegian researchers found between triclosan and allergies was similar to what US doctors found in a different study.

The authors report even though the research shows there is a relationship between triclosan and allergies, it is not fully understood.

“The link between triclosan and allergic sensitization is difficult to explain, given that little information is available from experimental data on the mechanism of triclosan in relation to allergic disease outcomes,” wrote the researchers.

The authors recommend further study to better understand how triclosan might influence allergy development in children.

The study was published online on November 12 in the journal Allergy.

The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

The research was funded by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Research Council of Norway, Oslo University Hospital, the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 3, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013