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Toothpaste cancer scare spotlighted
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-20 06:20

An international cancer scare over anti-bacterial soap and toothpaste is being investigated by Chinese authorities.

Research carried out by a professor in the United States found chlorine in tap water and the bacteria-busting chemical triclosan in some soaps and other products can react together to create the probable carcinogen chloroform.

Staffs of a supermarket in Jinan, Shandong Province, start removing Colgate toothpastes from the shelves due to a cancer scare April 20, 2005. [newsphoto]
However, author of the study Peter Vikesland of Virginia Tech University, reportedly said on Monday that a decision by British retailer Marks & Spencer's to take triclosan-enhanced toothpastes off its shelves was "an apparent overreaction."

Although no products were withdrawn from sale in Beijing, the findings made headlines in the Chinese media, raising consumer concern over triclosan-containing Colgate toothpaste and other products.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine yesterday said both they and the Standardization Administration of China have begun looking into case.

"To make an accurate and reasonable judgment, a standard needs to be developed on the basis of research, experimentation and data. That process will take some time," the agency said in a statement.

Colgate-Palmolive (Guangzhou) Co, with at least one of its toothpaste products containing triclosan, said its products have been certified by competent authorities worldwide, and are safe and effective.

China's national toothpaste standard, GB8372, makes no stipulation on the amount of the antibacterial compound triclosan allowed in toothpaste, and tests on the products focus on the presence of microbes and heavy metals, according to industry sources.

Professor Wu Weikai of the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday said he believed the risk posed by use of the toothpaste is almost "negligible," as in toothpaste triclosan is only present in very small amounts, and the chloroform produced when it is mixed with chlorinated water is also minimal.

A spokesman for the Beijing Consumers' Association yes-terday said it had not received any complaints about Colgate toothpaste.

"I think people are jumping to conclusions," Vikesland was quoted by the Roanoke Times as saying on Monday. "There isn't a huge need to worry at the present."

He said various websites garbled the potential health risks identified in his findings.

The original research, which appeared in the journal Environmental and Science Technology earlier this month, warned "the potential exists for substantial chloroform production to occur via daily household use of triclosan-containing products," according to the Roanoke Times report.

(China Daily 04/20/2005 page2)

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