Researchers have discovered that an ingredient in toothpaste could be inflaming the microbiota in your gut, increasing your risk of colonic inflammation and bowel cancer.

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that short-term exposure to triclosan, an antimicrobial contained in more than 2,000 consumer products, caused low-grade colonic inflammation, and accelerated the development of colitis and bowel cancer in mice, The Sun reported.

Senior author of the study and Assistant Professor Guodong Zhang said, “These results, for the first time, suggest that triclosan could have adverse effects on gut health. Here, our central finding is that short-time exposure to low-dose TCS caused low-grade colonic inflammation, and increased colitis and colitis-associated colon cancer in mice, which suggests a potential adverse effect of this compound on gut health.”

Scientists noted that traces of triclosan have been found in 75 percent of people in the United States, indicating an urgent need to test its safety.

“Because this compound is so widely used, our study suggests that there is an urgent need to further evaluate the impact of triclosan exposure on gut health in preparation for the potential establishment of further regulatory policies,” said postdoctoral fellow Dr Haixia Yang.

Sophia Lowes, from Cancer Research UK insisted that there is “no good evidence” to suggest that triclosan causes cancer.

“There is no good evidence that triclosan causes cancer in humans, and this study doesn’t change that,” Lowes said. “This was a very small study looking at the effects of triclosan in mice, so it can’t tell us if this is also true in humans. All cosmetic products go through rigorous health and safety testing to make sure they’re safe for use, so there’s no need to change your teeth-brushing routine.”

At the beginning of 2017, the European Chemicals Agency banned triclosan in biocidal products, including hand sanitizers. The chemical is still allowed to be included as a preservative in cosmetic products at levels of up to 0.3 percent, and can be found in toothpastes, hand soaps, body washes, shower gels, non-spray deodorants, face powders, concealers and professional nail products. Mouthwashes are permitted to contain 0.2 percent triclosan, and it can also be found in cleaning products.

In the study, triclosan caused bowel inflammation and tumors in the bowel in all tests on mice.

Study co-author and food scientist, Associate Professor Hang Xiao, said, “Also, treatment with triclosan significantly increased disease development of inflammatory bowel disease in the mice, suggesting that IBD patients may need to reduce exposure to this compound.”

“Further studies are urgently needed to better characterize the effects of TCS exposure on gut health to establish science-based policies for the regulation of this antimicrobial compound in consumer products,” Zhang concluded.