Endocrine Disruptors in the Marketplace: Toothpaste Edition

Emily’s post is the first in a series from a small survey of UMass students’ favorite personal care products and the endocrine disruptors found within the top brand in each category. The project was part of the co-listed spring course, Marketing/Biology 597.

Emily Messier 5449This past semester, I had the opportunity to take part in a seminar that brings together business and science students: Endocrine Disruptors in the Marketplace. These two disciplines need to collaborate more in the future – to see the pressures on both sides and work together to solve problems. As you can image there was a lot of investigation and sharing from both sides (business and science), but in the end, we have all reached the same conclusion, WOW.

WOW, we were amazed at the amount of toxic chemicals in our everyday products!
WOW, how are some of these endocrine disruptors still allowed in our products with so much scientific evidence against them?
WOW, how can we know what is actually safe to buy and use?
WOW, we need to tell others!

As the final project, the 10 students (half from the Isenberg School and the other half from Biology and Public Health) and 2 faculty members (Sustainability Marketing specialist, Cynthia Barstow and Endocrinologist, Tom Zoeller) created a survey for UMass students. We wanted to see what brands of personal care items, from shampoos to deodorants, were used most frequently and what endocrine disruptors are hidden within them. We brainstormed our most important personal care items and surveyed students’ favorite brands of toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and shaving cream.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals which disrupt or in some way interfere with the ability of a hormone to work properly. Many of these chemicals are used in everyday products and have been implicated in various disease states, such as a wide range of cancers, autism, and brain function.

My Biology partner, Marlena, and I (Marketing) specifically focused on results of what brands of toothpastes students use. The top two brands were used by 84% of the sample population. Both had the same active ingredient, sodium fluoride, but the second leading brand had .3% active ingredient of Triclosan.

You may have heard of Triclosan in the news lately because it is an antimicrobial used in many soaps and personal care products like toothpaste; it also happens to be an endocrine disruptor. Through PubMed research, we realized just how much of an effect this ingredient has on our body. Studies have shown Triclosan to have estrogenic effects that can interfere with hormone receptors, such as the estrogen receptor. It has also been shown to increase catabolism of thyroxine, a pre-cursor to the biologically active thyroid hormone, which in turn decreases blood levels of thyroxine. This is especially important to consider in pregnant women because this decrease in thyroxine could have detrimental and irreversible effects on brain development of the fetus.

Surprisingly, however, Triclosan has also been shown to decrease cancer cell proliferation as well as display apoptotic (cell-killing) effects. The mechanism in which this works shows potential for chemotherapeutic treatments. It is important to note, however, that while these may show beneficial potential, the effects it has on secretion and reception of estrogens are still disruptive to the endocrine system and does not render this chemical beneficial to us as it is currently administered.

After learning this information, I immediately felt the need to share it with the Protect Our Breasts following. I am a college-student just like the majority of our following. I never thought that something I put in my mouth every night could contain harmful chemicals to my body. Our words of advice to all consumers are to educate yourselves- you will get that WOW feeling too.


Works Cited

Liu B, Wang Y, Fillgrove KL, Anderson VE. Triclosan inhibits enoylreductase of type I fatty acid synthase in vitro and is cytotoxic to MCF-7 and SKBr-3 breast cancer cells. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol.2002;49:187–193.

Louis, Gwendolyn W., Daniel R. Hallinger, and Tammy E. Stoker. “The Effect of Triclosan on the Uterotrophic Response to Extended Doses of Ethinyl Estradiol in the Weanling Rat.” Reproductive Toxicology 36.0 (2013): 71-7.

Paul, Katie B., et al. “Developmental Triclosan Exposure Decreases Maternal, Fetal, and Early Neonatal Thyroxine: A Dynamic and Kinetic Evaluation of a Putative Mode-of-Action.” Toxicology 300.1–2 (2012): 31-45.

Tarnow, Patrick, et al. “Effects of Triclocarban on the Transcription of Estrogen, Androgen and Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Responsive Genes in Human Breast Cancer Cells.” Toxicology in Vitro.0.

Comments are closed.