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Is your toothpaste filled with nasty chemicals? Start your sustainable oral care journey here

By: Arpita Banerjee

Whenever the topic of sustainable swaps comes up, ditching your usual toothpaste is always one of them isn’t it?

So, what makes it harmful, what is it composed of – let’s dive in and see what all ingredients are present in your usual toothpaste and why?

1. Triclosan- This is not only found in toothpastes but also in various personal care products such as facewash, soaps, etc. Although it was banned to use in soaps by United States of America Food and Drug Association but toothpaste and some other products escaped this list.

It has found its way in various human tissues and fluids through absorption in oral mucosa since it doesn’t degrade for at least 24 hour and so remains in our body at all times. This chemical has found to act as an endocrine disruptor, affect the immune response, cardiovascular function, developments defect in infants. That’s the reason it is banned to use in baby products under the age of 6. Not only it affects humans but it disrupts the hormones and the development of marine animals by contaminating water bodies and remains as hazard in our environment.

2. Titanium Dioxide– There are not any strong evidence against its absorbtion in oral mucosal membrane or in epidermis and it is considered safe for topical application. But according to Environment Working Group, titanium oxide inhalation is reported to be carcinogenic and could lead to non-reproductive organ system toxicity. In my opinion, there are many safe ingredients to choose and this can be excluded.

3. Saccharin and Aspartame- These are artificial sweetener that are added to toothpaste to give it a slightly sweet taste and gives it a pasty texture. Aspartame is an excitotoxin (which is an additive that damages neurons by over-excitation of receptors) and Saccharin is known to be linked to bladder cancer. These chemicals offers no medical or additional benefits rather forms a layer on enamel as a wrap and doesn’t allow other ingredients to work. According to research experiments on rodents, these sweetening agents has been linked to cause lymphoma and brain tumors.

4. Carrageenan- It’s naturally derived from a seaweed that is used as a sweetening agent in non-natural toothpaste. Many peer reviewed research articles as well as American Diabetes Association has found exposure of food grade carrageenan causes gastro-intestinal inflammation, lesions, colon cancer, insulin resistance& even glucose resistance in laboratory animals.

5. Diethanolamine (DEA) – It is used as a foaming agent in toothpaste that is used in certain products as pH regulator which is yet another disruptor that react with certain substance to create carcinogens and cause organ toxicity. It is ranked as 10 on hazardous scale by study done by EWG (Environmental Working Group).

6. Propylene Glycol and Diethylene Glycol- This chemical is usually used as an anti-freeze compound and it is an active component in many cosmetic products, personal care products in this case toothpaste as a softener. If ingested in large quantities it may cause damage to central nervous system, liver, heart, kidney failure, paralysis etc. (A case study of Panama, where 300 people died in 2007, due to its consumption hence banned afterwards).

7. Sodium Pyrophosphate- This is basically an environmental hazard. Since, huge amount of toothpaste waste is spitted out and enters our drainage system which causes algal build up in sewer lines as well as pollute water bodies at the end of drains. Excessive phosphor accumulation in water bodies nearby where the wastewater ends up gives way to algal bloom and ultimately causes Eutrophication (increase of CO2 making dead spots in water bodies killing fish and other animals).

8. Abrasive Ingredients- Some abrasive agents such as hydrated silica strip away enamel and dentin rather than scrubbing biofilm of the teeth causing gum recession and sensitivity issues.

9. Artificial colouring- Heliodone pink and Brilliant blue FCF are common colouring agent used in normal toothpaste by various companies. This substance is found to be poisonous that affect soil health as it takes more than a year to degrade and continuous use of this substance along with everyday deposition makes it difficult to phase out. It is also responsible for polluting water body due to extremely small size which passes through any filters.

10. SLS/ SLES- It is a surfactant that lowers the surface tension between ingredients and therefore used as a foaming and cleansing agent. It act as an inhibitor of dental caries but according to EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, SLS is considered as a moderate hazard and has been linked to neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, cancer, skin irritation & endocrine disruptor.

11. Paraben- According to U.S. FDA these are synthetic chemicals that are used as preservatives in various cosmetic products to extent shelf life. Many studies found that parabens are hormone mimicking, endocrine disrupting chemicals & can act as poison if consumed more than a threshold amount.

The first principle of toxicology states- “The dose makes poison”. Hence, any chemical compound if consumed above a certain specific value is bound to cause harm to your body. These chemicals are found in many over the shelf products such as body washes, shampoos, facewash, hand wash, detergents, cleaners, toothpastes and many others. If we don’t limit consumption of so many harmful chemicals that find their way to our household on everyday basis, it may lead to huge range of diseases as well as pollute our environment beyond repair.

Apart from these chemicals, the normal toothpaste tube is also of concern since it is made up of mixture of plastic and aluminum, which is very hard to recycle. Most recycling plants doesn’t accept these tubes for recycling hence, billions of such tubes are sent to landfills or other open dumping spaces contaminating soil, water around it.

Here, I have come up with certain natural toothpaste found in Indian market that not only have medical property but most of its ingredients are naturally derived and completely safe for use. Most of them comes in a glass jar which can be easily reused and repurposed.

Along with this many companies have started an initiative where you can send back the jars in return you will get discount on your next purchase, cool isn’t it?

Many case study research has also concluded that chemical heavy toothpaste doesn’t have any significant edge in solving gum problems, treating gingivitis or removing plague over herbal/ natural toothpaste (that has plant derived ingredients, totally safe to use without any side effects).

According to my research, I can conclude that using organic tooth powder for stronger gums and effectively treat dental problem by customizing it according to specific needs should be the best way to use tooth powder. Neither it has any alarming health risk nor it creates pollution in our natural environment.

So, what are you waiting for? Replace your toothpaste with an organic one for yourself and your family.

Check out Arpita’s blog here)

Arpita Banerjee

I am Arpita Banerjee an Indian sustainability blogger, creator of sustainablyconsciouslife, on my blog I talk about living a simple, conscious and low waste life & advocate for environmental justice. I make digestible content around sustainable fashion, travel and lifestyle and advice people how to train your mind to start on this journey.

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