If you’re a regular tooth flosser (and if you aren’t, we have much bigger problems to address), then you know how that waxy glide of modern floss feels. It’s intoxicating, really — the soft pop of the floss sliding between the teeth.
Turns out, as with many modern marvels, mass-produced waxy glide dental flosses often harbor hormone-altering chemicals called PFAS. Known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS often cause birth defects, reproductive issues, testicular cancer, and other problems with continued exposure.
Third party health sites recently tested 39 different brands of dental floss and found PFAS in 13 of them. Levels ranged from 11 parts per million, or ppm, to 248,900 ppm. Four products, in particular, had more than 70,000 ppm, or 7%, PFAS, with Oral-B Glide testing at 248,900 ppm, or nearly 25%.
“None of these contaminants are something our readers want in their products,” Mamavation founder Leah Segedie wrote. Mamavation focuses on eco-wellness product investigations.
PFAS are in the blood of nearly all Americans due to their presence in wide ranges of products, from Teflon to dental floss, apparently. The chemical most often is used as an unnatural way to make a surface slippery or non-stick. But it’s also found in numerous other products, like cosmetics, stain-resistant carpets, and even flame retardants.
Glide dental floss producers like Oral-B deny the existence of PFAS toxins in their products
Infants often test for PFAS due to the presence of the chemical in umbilical cord blood and breast milk. And then once they begin growing, children bioaccumulate the toxin more and more over the years. Companies and trade associations like the American Dental Association should “stop approving of any dental product that contains any forever PFAS compound,” said Terry Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. “They should start educating their members about the insidious nature of low dose adverse effects from endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”
Companies like Oral-B, which is owned by mega-conglomerate Proctor & Gamble, deny using the PFAS in their products. “The safety of the people who use our products is our top priority. Our dental floss undergoes thorough safety testing and we stand behind the safety of all our products,” the company said. And yet, testing routinely reveals that they’re present.
PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are also in many “organic” brands of products, as well as many cheap, synthetic clothing brands.
As for dental floss, Mamavation narrowed down their favorite floss brands to 11 companies which can be trusted to provide higher-quality products.
“The ADA needs to understand that the seductions of chemicals with high technical and cost performances, like most PFAS compounds, have to be resisted until the health, environmental and fairness performances have been quantified and assessed and integrated into the value proposition,” Collins said. “From where I am looking, all PFAS compounds will fail competent scrutiny in this area.”