Chemical in Colgate Total possible hormone disrupter and carcinogenic
Consumer NZ is warning people to limit their use of Colgate Total toothpaste because it contains a chemical banned in some countries.
The toothpaste contains triclosan, an antibacterial chemical that used to be found in soap, toothpaste and body wash.
Last year, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned products that contain any one of 19 ingredients, including triclosan, that had not been proven safe.
Triclosan is used in toothpaste as an antibacterial agent to fight diseases such as gingivitis, but Consumer NZ researcher Jessica Wilson said it was not necessary.
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The chemical has been linked to changes in hormone function, liver and kidney damage, and is a suspected carcinogen.
Triclosan is permitted in cosmetic products in New Zealand at a concentration of 0.3 per cent.
Cosmetic companies including Colgate-Palmolive said last year it had either reformulated, or was reformulating products to delete the most common of the 19 ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarban.
Colgate-Palmolive spokesman Thomas DiPiazza said: "Colgate Total users can be fully confident in the safety of our toothpaste for daily use".
"It continues to be approved as safe and effective through a rigorous review by the US Food and Drug Administration and is approved by regulatory authorities in Europe, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand."
But Wilson said Colgate Total toothpaste in New Zealand still contained the unnecessary chemical.
"Triclosan is a broad spectrum antibacterial agent in a range of products from toothpaste to paint. We've been concerned about it for some time because we don't want them to be in products you have frequent contact with," Wilson said.
"Science has shown it has potential human affects. It's currently permitted to be in products at 0.3 per cent, including toothpaste, but we are concerned is being used unnecessarily.
"It's permitted under our cosmetic standards but international regulators have started taking a closer look at it."
But any investigation into chemicals used in products was usually a reactive approach by New Zealand's Environmental Protection Agency, rather than proactive, Wilson said.
"The issue we're seeing now is because of the possibly cumulative exposure we think there's a need to review its use."
Some antibacterial hand and body washes are no better than soap and water at killing germs, and could cause long term harm, Wilson said.
In December, the EPA issued a fact sheet on triclosan that said the chemical caused harm to the environment and animals but "more data is needed to determine the scope and extent of the issue".
It also said: "Triclosan has not been proven to create ... adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological or immune effects in people or animals. The European Chemicals Agency has asked for more information on this."
Foodstuffs, which owns Pak 'n Save and New World, had not made a decision to remove products from its shelves because of the proactive response from its suppliers.
Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Laird said: "In September 2016, following the announcement by the FDA, Foodstuffs contacted all of its suppliers and asked them to advise on the status of their antibacterial products".
"We received two types of response. Suppliers either advised that their products did not contain triclosan or any of the other ingredients listed by the FDA. Or if it was present, products were being reformulated by October 2017, the only exception was Colgate Total, because of the benefits around the treatment of gingivitis.
"Our private label products including Pams and Value do not contain any of the ingredients listed by the FDA."
Countdown spokeswoman Kate Porter said the supermarket chain decided to remove triclosan from its own brand products a while ago, "with only a few products left to reformulate which is underway".
"We're also having conversations with retail suppliers in New Zealand about what their position is on triclosan, and any plans they have to address concerns regarding their products."
Colgate-Palmolive have been approached for comment.