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brushing up

Posted Sep 12 2008 12:11pm

I came to the toothpaste dilemma in a roundabout way. Instead of worrying about the contents of the toothpaste, I was noticed the bulky plastic container was not recyclable. I had bought a monstrous pump-style in an effort to entice my kids to brush with enthusiasm (and that part worked). However, I thought the packaging was huge and the fact it wasn't recyclable disturbed me. I started to hunt for tubes of toothpaste that could be recycled.

Once I found recyclable tubes I started wondering about the contents of the paste. I've been researching ingredients in body products the past few weeks and was surprised to see some of the stuff that is in a tube of toothpaste! I'm not even going to cover fluoride now, since that is an issue worthy of it's own post. There are plenty of healthy toothpastes available both with and without fluoride.

Debra Lynn Dadd says in her book, Home Safe Home, " fluoride toothpastes may contain ammonia, ethanol, artificial colors and flavors, formaldehyde, mineral oil, sugar, and carcinogenic polyvinylpyrrolidone plastic (PVP), the same plastic resin used in hairspray"
Yuck!

I was surprised to see these ingredients in my traditional (Colgate Total) toothpaste:

triclosan(an antibacterial ingredient not found in all toothpastes)Skin Deep says, "potentially contaminated with or breaking down into chemicals linked to cancer or other significant health problems."

sodium saccharin(FDA requires a warning on food products and chewing gum about causing cancer in animals, but not on toothpaste)

carrageenan(thought to possibly cause cancer in humans)

sodium lauryl sulfate(industry is recommending concentration limits when used in certain leave-on applications, like shampoo)

titanium dioxide(classified as an occupational carcinogen)

Since I started looking at the various toothpastes at health food stores, I have found a few I like. One is Jason Natural Cosmetics Sea Fresh Plus Coq-10 Toothpaste.

I also found many I liked from Toms of Maine, which seems like a great company since they are socially and environmentally responsible (should be noted that Toms is owned by Colgate Palmolive). Their toothpastes seem to rate very well on the Skin Deep website, although they do have sodium lauryl sulfate in them.

The toothpaste that rated highest on the Skin Deep website is called, Fresh Umbrian Clay Toothpaste. I have not tried it. It is $20/tube at Sephora! Sure hope it is good (and I cannot vouch for the packaging).

I saw another recomendation on the Sustainable Scoop for Uncle Harry's Clay toothpaste, which is completely non-toxic and comes in a glass jar.

Of course, you could always brush with just plain baking soda. Somehow I don't think my kids would go for that. Meanwhile I'll keep looking for alternatives by reading the labels at the natural market.
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