Healthy Smiles Are Green

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October 24, 2011

Everyone wants a healthy smile, but did you know that some of the products you and your family use to maintain those pearly whites could contain harmful ingredients? Many people mistakenly believe that the personal care products we use daily (or more) have been tested for safety.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 192 types of toothpaste currently on the market. Thirty-four percent of the tested products contain ingredients that may pose cancer risks. Forty-four percent contain harmful impurities. Nineteen percent contain ingredients that increase the exposures to carcinogens and other ingredients of concern in these and other personal care products.

A happy, healthy smile is not made with cancer-causing ingredients, especially when there are effective and eco-friendly toothpaste and toothbrushes choices easily available.

Ingredients To Avoid In Toothpaste:

  • Artificial Colors (anything that starts with FD&C) – While artificial colors are not the most concerning ingredient in toothpaste, they are unnecessary. Recent research is linking these petroleum-derived ingredients to increased learning, health, and behavior problems.
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine – A synthetic surfactant that makes products foamier, cocamidopropyl betaine by itself is a known skin, eye, and lung irritant and produces a high rate of allergic responses. However, it can also contain impurities formed during the manufacturing process that contain carcinogenic nitrosamines.
  • Fluoride (Sodium Fluoride) – Fluoride is probably the most controversial ingredient listed, and why so many safe, eco-friendly brands still make a fluoridated version, but it is one that should not be taken lightly. Fluoride is a waste product of the phosphate fertilizer industry and is  carcinogenic, a neurotoxin, an endocrine disruptor, and is bioaccumulative (meaning it is absorbed in the body at a greater rate than it is lost). Modern research indicates it  does not reduce risk of cavities. With so many states adding fluoride to the water, most people just don’t need it, and surprisingly the FDA has never safely tested fluoride for ingestion. As research expands, families need to choose what is best for them.
  • Parabens – Another example in which recent research shows how unsafe these ingredients really are. Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives that have been linked to hormone disruption, increased risk of breast cancer, and reproductive toxicity. New research has shown that methylparaben not only increases the risk of breast cancer, but also interferes with one of the most common medications that treat breast cancer.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (and its cousin Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate) – Is another synthetic surfectant that makes products thicker and foamier. By itself, it isn’t the worst ingredient, however it can be a skin and eye irritant. The larger potential problems are that it can alter the skin’s ability to keep out other toxins and increase the amount allowed into the bloodstream, plus it can contain the toxic impurity, 1,4-Dioxane which is a known carcinogen.
  • Triclosan – Triclosan is a pesticide that is added to products to restrict the growth of bacteria. It is linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, hormone disruption, and may disrupt thyroid function. It is also a contributor to antibiotic resistance.

Eco-Friendly Toothpaste Options For The Whole Family:

  • Green Beaver Natural Toothpaste (fluoride free) – Green Beaver is the largest natural, eco-friendly and organic certified (EcoCert) product line in (and made in) Canada. Their toothpaste is made for the whole family to enjoy.
  • Jason Natural Cosmetics Toothpaste (fluoride and fluoride free) – Jason has separate lines for kids and adult. All are certified organic made with high quality ingredients and no animal by-products, synthetic colors or fragrance, and other harmful chemicals.
  • Miessence (fluoride free) – Miessence is one of the safest, greenest product lines on the market and their toothpastes are no different. They do not have a separate kids line, but all toothpastes are safe for the whole family.
  • Tooth Soap (fluoride free) – Tooth Soap comes in liquid, gel, whip, and shreds form. This is an interesting, non-toxic, all natural and organic alternative to toothpaste and is manufactured in the USA in a gluten free and kosher facility.
  • Weleda Toothpaste (fluoride and fluoride free) – Weleda makes a separate gel for children that is fluoride free. Weleda maintains its commitment to environmental sustainability and safe, effective products and puts every one to the test to obtain the highest natural certifications.
  • Make Your Own – Do it yourself and have the ultimate control over ingredients. Plus, it is a fun project to do with the kids!

Then there are the toothbrushes to consider. If you are diligent about changing your toothbrush every three months, then that is a lot of waste potentially going into the landfills. For now it seems, there is no perfect eco-friendly toothbrushes, but there are better alternatives.

Ingredients To Avoid In Toothbrushes:

  • Bisphenol-A (BPA) – BPA is a hormone-mimicking chemical that is linked to a large number of health problems, with new research supporting evidence that BPA does not belong in our bodies. These adverse health effects include an increased risk of reproductive cancers like breast and prostate cancer, genital defects in baby boys, infertility, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) – PVC is called the poison plastic because of its ability to release numerous toxins, including mercury, dioxins, and phthalates. These toxins can leach particularly when chewed on by young children.
  • Phthalates – Phthalates in tooth brushes are used with PVC to improve flexibility. Phthalates are linked to hormone disruption, early puberty for girls, infertility, premature delivery, sperm damage, reduced testosterone, genital defects in boys and increased risk of testicular cancer.

Eco-Friendly Toothbrush Options For The Whole Family:

  • Preserve – Preserve toothbrushes are made in the U.S. from 100% recycled #5 plastic yogurt containers and are 100% recyclable. The packaging Preserve toothbrushes come in are also return mailers. Toothbrushes can also be recycled at an increasing number of retailers. Available in adult and junior (ages 2-8) sizes.
  • Radius – These toothbrushes are made in the U.S. from renewable plant sources such as corn, trees and wood fiber. The head is replaceable, so you only have to replace part of the toothbrush, which is smaller and more lightweight than a typical disposable toothbrush. The Totz and Kidz toothbrushes are also BPA-free and designed to last through kids chewing and playing.
  • Eco-Dent – The TerraDent replaceable head toothbrush has the lowest bacterial load of any major brand of toothbrush tested by the prestigious Oeko-Test in Europe, due to the thermo-welded head and the replaceable head system. The savings in production energy, raw materials, pollution and landfill impacts by using their replaceable head toothbrushes are significant.
  • Green Sprouts, Raz Baby, and Baby Buddy – All 100% FDA Approved Food Grade Silicone BPA-free, Lead & Phthalate free options for little ones.
  • Oral-B – Oral-B is not the most eco-friendly option, but it is BPA-free and you can find them just about anywhere. You can also look into local recycling centers and see if any take toothbrushes.

As always when it comes to choosing eco-friendly choices, you have to look at the big picture and make a decision that is best for your family. What are your favorite green toothpastes and toothbrushes? If you haven’t tried any mentioned, which sounds like it would be a good fit for your family?

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