Parabens are used as preservatives to prevent the growth of microorganisms in toothpastes and personal healthcare products, and in some foods. When first introduced into personal products their ability to greatly reduce microbiological contamination meant shelf life of the products changed from weeks to more than 2 years. The usual products used are methyl paraben, ethyl paraben,butyl paraben and propyl paraben.
There are many concerns around the safety of parabens in personal products and increasingly so in toothpastes. Parabens are believed to affect the endocrine system which produces the body’s hormones and parabens mimic oestrogen, a hormone known to drive the growth and development of human breast cancer. There is growing concern around links between parabens and breast cancer.
This belief is supported by a number of studies. As an example, in a study published in 2004, levels of parabens were detected in all breast tumors in women tested, and the hypothesis that parabens had seeped into the tissue after skin application. The study also demonstrated parabens do accumulate in the human body. Parabens are found in the urine of most people, according to a CDC report. It remains unknown if parabens affect foetuses and infants. However, generally where medical effects are seen in adults, the probability of effects in children is high.
Triclosan is an ingredient used in many toothpastes as an antibacterial, and thus used to reduce bacterial growth, plaque and caries. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies Triclosan as a probable human carcinogen, and animal studies have suggested hormonal regulation modification with its use. Further with continuing use, bacterial resistance to this antibiotic family is also expected, thus negating any real role in toothpaste in the future..