I brush my teeth every morning, and I used to think that people who were not doing the same were ruining their teeth. Recently, I made a discovery as I was scrolling through my phone. I saw an article entitled “Toothpaste is bad for marine biodiversity”. If a mundane task like brushing my teeth has a place for controversy, I need to know more. After a manic episode filled with research and sweat, let me share my findings with you. People should be aware of what goes in their bodies.
Triclosan is the most concerning ingredient in toothpaste. A highly used chemical for its anti- bacterial properties, the issues with triclosan are that regular usage increases microbial resistance to antibiotics. This means that as we keep using triclosan, microbes would grow resistant and tougher chemicals would be needed to get rid of them. On the EWG website, Triclosan is rated a 7 out of 10 for its hazards. Another big issue brought up by EWG is that this chemical disrupts postembryonic development on top of being a hormone disruptor (which interferes with the developmental stage). This easily becomes concerning when we remember that kids swallow toothpaste.
Scientists are worried about the presence of fluoride. Sixty years ago, researchers found that fluoride, which can naturally be found in water, is a great agent to prevent and cure cavities. Since then, they have been trying to decay this product in tap water, salt, mouthwash, and toothpaste. The problem with putting fluoride in toothpaste and water and mouthwash is that too much of its consumption can lead to dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis as explained by Aoun et. al is “a cosmetic disorder where the teeth become mottled”. The teeth get white spots. In more severe cases, the tooth enamel is destroyed, and the spots get yellow or brown. A high concentration can lead to skeletal fluorosis which means weakening of the joints and bones.
Scarily enough, fluorosis is the least of our problems. The most concerning thing about toothpaste is its impact on marine biodiversity. Since 2015, scientists have been trying to force cosmetic companies to stop using harmful plastic particles in their products. In toothpaste, like in exfoliators, microbeads are used in place of natural exfoliation materials like oatmeal. Instead, these little pieces of plastic are dragged across the teeth multiple times without losing their corrosive aptitudes since plastic has a long lifespan. Plastic can divide itself into millions of little particles without ever disappearing. These particles trickle down the drain and get into the underground water system.
Big companies like IKEA, Target, L’Oréal, and even Colgate said they would remove the microbeads from their products, but the laws and the claims can be diverted by using different terms, or by hiding behind technicalities. These microbeads are difficult to collect from the oceans, therefore, the ones that are currently present in marine life are there to stay. The best way to get rid of them is to impose laws that are englobing restrictions for the companies that are producing and using them.
Before even starting the day I already pollute my body and the planet. It seems like as the days go by, I find out that chemicals and environmental pollution are embedded deeper in our daily lives than we would like to believe.