Urgent research needed: Scientists say triclosan poses a danger of brain damage to unborn babies
A chemical in toothpastes and soaps has been linked with brain damage to babies in the womb.
Scientists fear pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of the chemical, called triclosan, may be putting their babies at risk.
Alarming new findings suggest triclosan may disrupt the flow of blood to the uterus, starving a baby’s brain of the oxygen it needs to develop properly.
Last night researchers involved in the study called for urgent investigations into the dangers to unborn babies.
Professor Margaret James of the University of Florida said: ‘We know it’s a problem. But we just don’t know how much of a problem.’
Triclosan is a powerful anti-bacterial that was developed nearly 50 years ago.
It is now commonly used in everything from toothpastes, deodorants and handwashes to washing-up liquid, anti-bacterial chopping boards and even some toys.
However, it has been dogged by concerns over its safety and earlier this year the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. announced it was carrying out a major review on its safety.
In the latest study, tests on sheep showed it interferes with an enzyme that allows the hormone oestrogen to circulate in the womb.
Oestrogen helps to keep open the main artery carrying oxygen-rich blood to the foetus.
If there is too little, this artery narrows and oxygen supplies are depleted.
In the UK, the chemical’s use is covered by the EU Cosmetics Directive, which says it is safe to use but only in small doses. The maximum content allowed in any product is 0.3 per cent.
Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline has phased out the use of triclosan in its Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpaste and Corsodyl mouthwash. It is still used in brands such as Colgate Total.
Elizabeth Salter-Green, director of the ChemTrust, which lobbies for responsible use of man-made chemicals, urged pregnant women to avoid triclosan.
Still used: Triclosan can be found in products such as Colgate Total Toothpaste
‘They should absolutely avoid anything with triclosan listed in its ingredients,’ she said.
‘We don’t all need to be using anti-bacterial soaps if we wash our hands properly.
‘It has been on our radar for many years and I’m not surprised at these latest findings.’
But a spokesman for the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association said the study in sheep did not prove the same effects would be seen in humans.
She added: ‘Much research on human and environmental safety has been done on triclosan over the years.
‘To date, it has been shown to be safe.
‘Our industry’s number one priority is consumer safety and we work with the regulatory authorities to ensure that all new research is taken into consideration.
‘In 2009, the Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety, an independent body of experts reporting to the EU Commission, confirmed the safety of triclosan as a cosmetic ingredient, as commonly used, at a limit of 0.3 per cent.’
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