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02 March 2017

What toxic chemicals are in your toothpaste?

Toothpaste developed by multinational corporations is commonly formulated using a combination of toxic ingredients recognised, to a certain degree, for their health risks. Ingredients such a Triclosan, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Artificial Sweeteners and Fluoride are used in most commercial brands. The mouth’s oral mucosa is one of the most absorbent areas of the body, therefore anything placed inside the mouth has a high chance of being absorbed and transferred into the bloodstream. This is concerning when chemically produced toothpaste is used widely everyday by both children and adults.

One widely promoted and used toothpaste, particularly in Australia is Colgate Total. Its claims promise 12-hour complete oral care protection against plaque and gingivitis. The chemical used in its formulations of this toothpaste is Triclosan, an antibacterial compound linked to various health concerns.

Toothpaste is one of the most potent delivery vehicles for Triclosan. Although the chemical can prevent gingivitis, it has also been linked to numerous health concerns including antibiotic resistance, endocrine disruption and breast cancer progression. Endocrine disrupting chemicals can be the cause for several adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects. Triclosan also has close links with dioxin, a highly carcinogenic chemical that can weaken the immune system, decrease fertility, cause miscarriages, birth defects and cancer.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a chemical used in most toothpastes to promote the foaming action of the paste. This chemical is used in thousands of beauty products and industrial cleaners as a surfactant, detergent and emulsifier. Although SLS naturally occurs in coconuts, the chemical form is usually combined with various chemicals to produce desired results including dioxin, a carcinogenic by-product that has been linked to cancer.

When SLS is used in toothpaste, it affects your taste buds by breaking up the phospholipids on your tongue. This chemical is responsible for changing the taste of food and drinks after brushing as it enhances bitter tastes. SLS is not only bad for our health but for our environment as well. The manufacturing process of this chemical releases carcinogenic volatile organic compounds into the environment.

Made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine, Aspartame is a common chemical in most artificial sweeteners added to commercial toothpastes to enhance the flavour. The chemical Phenylalanine has been adapted to contain a methyl group which is known as a phenylalanine methyl bond called methyl ester. This bond is frail which can easily detach the methyl group from the phenylalanine causing it to form methanol. Although methanol is found in fruit and vegetables, it is firmly bonded to pectin which allows it to be safely passed through your digestive tract.

Methanol created by aspartame is not bonded to anything which causes the body to process it rather then let it pass through the body. When processed by the body, the methyl alcohol travels through your bloodstream and penetrates sensitive areas including your brain which is then converted to formaldehyde, damaging tissue and causing other serious health concerns. Symptoms from methanol poisoning can include headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness, and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioural disturbances, and neuritis.

Fluoride is thought to be the best ingredient for preventing tooth decay, however recent studies indicate it may not be as effective as once thought. The study discovered the layer of fluorapatite build up on your teeth from fluoride is only six nanometres thick. The thickness can be comparable to 10,000 of these layers measuring the same width as a strand of hair. This is causing scientists to question the strength and protective abilities of this ultra-thin layer.

Fluoride is a toxic chemical that builds up in your body over time and causes various health problems. It is particularly concerning for children using fluoride toothpaste as studies have found fluoride to be the single biggest source of intake for young children due to them swallowing a large amount during brushing. This can cause several health issues including disfiguring dental fluorosis, a symptom of fluoride poisoning. Research has recognised that children can swallow more fluoride from toothpaste alone than their recommended daily intake.

Organic and natural toothpastes are effective in providing complete oral care without the toxic chemicals. Most natural toothpastes used ingredients including bentonite clay, coconut oil, baking soda, salt, peppermint oil and water. You can make your own natural toothpaste at home. It’s easy, affordable and most importantly, toxin free.

Related: How to detox your home;  Zero waste toxin free washing; Natural toxin free deodorant

Author & Editor

Tracey Bailey is the founder of Biome Eco Stores and mother of two. After working in corporate communications and starting a family, she made a choice to be part of the solution to our planet's future and started Biome Eco Stores. Tracey is passionate about educating the community about living eco-friendly and sustainable lives through her extended product, chemical, health and environmental knowledge.


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