London: An antibacterial chemical commonly used in toothpastes may pose a threat to your health, a European Union committee has warned.
The EU`s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, which provides scientific advice to the European Commission related to non-food issues, has said that triclosan may promote widespread bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
The committee has also called for further safety studies to reconfirm its role in spreading superbugs, a newspaper reported.
The chemical is also used in handwashes and cosmetics. Laboratory studies have shown triclosan can trigger gene mutations in bacteria, enabling them to protect themselves against it.
When this happens, the bacteria release proteins which transport this new-found protection to other bacteria. This `cross-resistance` has the potential to undermine the effectiveness of antibiotics and other life-saving medicines.
Studies have shown there are already bacterial mutations of E coli, salmonella and listeria, which have some degree of resistance to triclosan. Some strains of the hospital superbug MRSA have also developed low levels of triclosan resistance.
Triclosan was developed almost 50 years ago and was first used as a surgical scrub.
The US Food & Drug Administration has also found evidence that triclosan is a hormone disruptor. But the chemical is so commonly used that it is found in the urine of 75 percent of the American population, a recent CDC report said.
Meanwhile, reacting to the reports, Colgate Palmolive has said the benefits of adding triclosan to its Total range outweigh the risk.
A spokeswoman said: "Colgate Total toothpaste is clinically proven to reduce the bacteria and plaque that can lead to gingivitis.
"This is an important benefit because there is a significant and growing body of scientific research on the association between periodontal disease and systemic health conditions, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes."
GlaxoSmithKline, a leading healthcare company, has however adopted a more cautious approach and decided to withdraw triclosan from its range of products.