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Toxic Chemical Banned From Antibacterial Soap Is Still Legal In Toothpaste

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The FDA has banned a controversial chemical found in antibacterial soap, but it turns out that ingredient is still legal in toothpaste.

Plain old soap and water -- that is now the official hand washing recommendation from the FDA, after essentially banning a common ingredient last week in antibacterial soap.

Studies link Triclosan to health concerns ranging from hormone disruption, immune and reproductive concerns.

But despite the ban, that same chemical remains in toothpaste.

Mae Wu of Natural Resource Defense Council explains the antibacterial is also used to fight plaque and gingivitis in Colgate Total toothpaste -- one of the best-selling brands.

"We are very worried about people being exposed to Triclosan though their mouths through brushing their teeth," Wu said.

The FDA's decision to ban Triclosan in soap was a result of her group's lawsuit against the agency.

When antibacterial soap manufacturers couldn't prove the products were safe, or worked any better than regular soap, the FDA essentially banned 19 active antibacterial ingredients, including the most common Triclosan.

But the ban only applies to antibacterial soap, which is considered an over the counter drug.

The law requires that any chemical that's used in these kinds of products be both safe and effective.

Wu says the same standards don't necessarily apply to other products with Triclosan - like Colgate  toothpaste, which was submitted back in the 1990s under what's called, a new drug application.

Instead of safe and effective, they have to show the benefits outweigh the risk.

The FDA told us that Colgate Total "was shown to be effective in reducing plaque and gingivitis. Based on the scientific evidence, the balance of benefit and risk has been shown to be favorable for this product."

However Wu points to mounting safety concerns in the nearly 20 years since the toothpaste was approved.

"It is something that we think the FDA needs to revisit," Wu said.

Colgate points to more than 100 toxicology studies submitted with its original application and says it provides safety updates annually, which are reviewed by the FDA.

Meanwhile, the chemical remains in many other products including makeup, kitchenware, furniture, toys and pesticides. And the FDA admits that the long-term exposure to this chemical is higher than previously thought.

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