Dental Floss May Be Toxic To Health, Study Says

Dental Floss May Be Toxic To Health, Study Says
A few dental floss brands contain the chemical substance PFAS which has been linked to cancer, liver and brain disease. (Photo: kizzzbeth | Flickr)

Your effort to keep healthy dental hygiene may have consequences. A recent study on the use of dental floss reveals it may contain toxic chemicals that can have potential health risks.

Certain types of floss may be toxic to the body because it contains polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS), chemicals which are previously linked to health implications including brain and liver problems and high cholesterol. According to the study conducted by the Silent Spring Institute in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley's Public Health Institute, Oral-B Glide products tested positive with this toxic chemical. Another floss that contained traces of PFAS includes two other similar brand competitors.

The research involved 178 women, half of which are African-American, who provided blood samples and answered questions about their lifestyle. The team then tested the blood samples for signs of 11 different types of PFAS, with perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid, found in lower amounts specifically among the African-American subjects. Frequent consumption of food from PFSA-coated containers and exposure to water supply mixed with PFSA also increased levels of the toxic chemical among the subjects.

However, the most surprising source of PFSA came from dental floss. The researchers tested 18 dental floss products for fluorine, which is an indicator of the PFAS polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE and discovered the chemical is being used as coatings.

The women who flossed with Oral-B Glide had higher levels of the PFAS perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS) compared to those who did not. Three of the Glide products examined tested positive for the toxic chemical and another floss labeled as "single strand Teflon fiber."

Silent Spring's Katie Boronow, the lead author of the study, said that "this is the first study to show that using dental floss containing PFAS is associated with a higher body burden of toxic chemicals." She reminded the general public to choose dental floss that does not contain PFAS to avoid its harmful effects to the body.

PFAS is present everywhere, from non-stick cookware, food wrappers, and microwave popcorn bags. They are also present in stain-resistant furniture or carpet and even in water. Frequent exposure to PFAS ran the risk of health problems including cancer and thyroid disease.

Velvet Gogol Bennett, the spokesperson for Procter & Gamble, Oral-B's parent company, pointed out that the study did not just focus on flossing but also on a variety of behaviors, which could have contributed to the body's exposure to PFAS. Oral-B also vouched in a statement that its product does not contain PFAS since it undergoes extreme safety testing to ensure the safety of its consumers.

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