Flossing your teeth daily might be amazing for your dental health, but if you’re using one popular dental floss, you could be inadvertently putting yourself at risk of a host of health problems.
A new study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology found that many people are ending up with a chemical known as PFAS in their bodies thanks to their use of Oral-B Glide dental floss and similar products.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are toxic chemicals that have been linked to problems like thyroid disease, testicular cancer, high cholesterol, decreased fertility, damage to the immune system, kidney cancer, and low birth weight.
They took blood samples from 178 middle-aged women who were part of the Pubic Health Institutes Child Health and Development Studies. This multigenerational study has been exploring the impact that environmental chemicals have on diseases. They measured 11 PFAS chemicals in the blood samples and compared them with interviews in which the women had been questioned about nine behaviors they’ve linked to higher exposures.
When the researchers discovered that women who used Oral-B Glide dental floss had elevated levels of perfluorohexanesulfonic acid in their bodies, they decided to test that floss along with 17 others for the presence of PFAS marker fluorine. They discovered that all three Glide products tested did contain it, as well as two store brands that were labeled as being comparable to Glide. A floss that boasted of being a “single stand Teflon fiber” also contained it.
Reducing your PFAS exposure
The researchers say theirs is the first study illustrating how PFAS-containing dental floss can contribute to elevated levels of the chemical. Although it’s alarming, it’s ultimately good for consumers because it can help them make better choices about the products they use.
The study also identified other behaviors that can cause higher levels of PFAS. Two big ones were having stain-resistant furniture or carpet and living in cities that have PFAS-contaminated drinking water. Moreover, women who ate food out of coated cardboard containers also had higher levels of four PFAS chemicals compared those who don’t.
These chemicals are often added to products because they resist water and grease. In addition to the aforementioned items, the chemicals can also be found in nonstick cookware, microwave popcorn bags, hygiene products, and fast food wrappers – in case you needed another reason to avoid fast food!
Unfortunately, these dangerous chemicals accumulate in the body over time, so even if you’ve stopped using nonstick cookware, for example, you still need to be vigilant about other products to avoid making any damage you’ve already incurred worse. The chemicals have been used in the U.S. since the 1940s, so many people already have years of exposure to contend with.
Not surprisingly, Oral-B was defensive of the finding. Manufacturer Procter & Gamble said that safety was a top priority for them and that their dental floss has undergone safety testing. A spokesperson told USA TODAY that the study looked at other behaviors beyond flossing, which may be true, but the floss was specifically connected to the chemicals in the study. The company also pointed out that women’s use of the floss was self-reported, although it’s hard to imagine they could have inaccurately reported their use of floss – and in any case, the researchers found indicators of the PFAS polytetrafluoroethylene when they tested the floss itself.
Once again, we are reminded of how important it is to pay attention to the products you buy – especially those that you use on a daily basis. If you care about your health, look into the ingredients and safety records of not just food but hygiene products, and don’t simply assume that products that are popular and widely sold are automatically “safe” and free of toxins.
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