Skip to main content

Safety concern over toothpaste and mouthwash with triclosan unfounded - CHOICE # 345

  • 2005.07.15

There is no cause for safety concern over the use of toothpaste and mouthwash containing the chemical triclosan.

The concern followed a recent US study revealing that triclosan content in domestic chemical products may react with residual chlorine in drinking water to form chloroform, a possible carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substance harmful to human health.

The Consumer Council has sought expert view on the safety of oral care products containing triclosan.

A crucial factor for the US study concerned the amount of free residual chlorine that may exist in water.

According to the information indicated in the Water Supplies Department's "Drinking Water Quality Monitoring Data for the period 10/2003 to 09/2004", the maximum amount of free residual chlorine detected was a mere 2.0 mg/L or 1/125 of that used in the study.

The chlorine content in the local water supply is in full compliance with the World Health Organization's "Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality".

The Department of Health also assured that as the time for oral care products and drinking water to mix in the mouth is so limited that even if the chemical reaction should take place, only a trace amount of chloroform could be formed. The health of the public is not expected to be adversely affected by the use of these oral care products.

Further, oral care products which contain triclosan and bear medical claims (i.e. effective in reducing dental plague and/or gingival inflammation), are required to be registered under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance.

The Consumer Council has subsequently found in the market at least three toothpaste and mouthwash products containing triclosan and bearing medical claims, that have not been properly registered as pharmaceutical products. The matter has been referred to the Department of health for necessary follow-up action.

On the basis of the information and scientific evidence available, there is no reasonable cause to support the safety concern in the use of these products.

The Consumer Council reserves all its right (including copyright) in respect of CHOICE Magazine and Online CHOICE ( ).