“The research demonstrated that almost all toothpaste products contain significant levels of lead,” said the American Environmental Safety Institute, “a heavy metal known…to be hazardous to human health by causing cancer and birth defects.” (Toxic Beauty, Samuel Epstein, p.164)
Proctor & Gamble agreed to reduce by 25 percent the levels of lead in its toothpastes. Meanwhile, metal isn’t the only thing to worry about. Many toothpastes contain triclosan, an anti-bacterial that’s been shown to be a hormone-disruptor in tests on animal and human cells. (Read labels to see if your toothpaste has it.) On top of that, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)-one of our ingredients to avoid-is in many brands to encourage foaming, but is a particularly harsh detergent that can irritate tender gums (especially when you’re going through chemotherapy). When ingested at high levels, it can be toxic to the liver and kidneys.
Want to know something else scary? Scientific research has suggested that SLS can increase your risk of…mouth ulcers! Study participants who brushed using SLS-free toothpaste reduced their number of canker sores-by as much as 81 percent. You definitely don’t need more mouth sores during treatment, so if your brand has this ingredient, throw it out!
Another harsh ingredient-hydrated silica. A “whitener” in toothpastes, it’s abrasive, and can wear down our naturally protective tooth enamel. If you’ve got sensitive teeth and gums, avoid this one.
Other toxic ingredients we have warned you about-like parabens and propylene glycol-may also be present in your formula. Colored pastes often contain dyes that have the potential to cause headaches, allergic reactions, and fatigue. And of course, most have fluoride. Dentists recommend it for preventing cavities, but fluoride comes from the element fluorine, and can be very toxic if you swallow it. When ingested, it can damage the brain, reduce the function of the thyroid, and may even increase risk of bone cancer (in one study). However, most dentists still believe that fluoride in your toothpaste-where you’re not supposed to swallow it-is beneficial to your teeth, as it does counter the effect of plaque and makes the tooth more resistant to decay.
We’ll let you decide whether or not you want to go for the fluoride, but as for the rest of the ingredients, we urge you to shop for brands that stay away from SLS, silica, triclosan, and lead-especially if you’re going through radiation or chemotherapy. For suggested brands, try Tom’s of Maine, Herbal Choice, or some of these other alternatives.
Have you adopted a toxin-free toothpaste? Tell us your thoughts.
Photo courtesy RedToque Photography via Flickr.com.