The scary truth about dental floss

Is anything safe in our toxic world?

According to the latest research, simply flossing your teeth could substantially raise your body’s levels of something called polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)—widespread chemicals with links to a long list of diseases, including cancer.

Sometimes I feel like we just can’t win. But it won’t stop me from sounding the alarm. And like it or not, this is yet another daily ritual that we need to pay closer attention to…

When dental floss turns deadly

I’ve warned about the dangers of PFASs before. These manmade chemicals were introduced to our world 60 years ago. You’ll find them in non-stick cookware, food packaging, carpets, furniture, and waterproof coatings.

And because they take such a long time to break down, they remain in the environment for years.

PFASs are literally in our water supply, which is horrifying enough. But just when you think you’ve heard it all, along comes a study like this…

It featured 180 women. And it showed that those who used Oral-B® Glide to floss their teeth had higher levels of a PFAS called perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS) in their bodies compared to those who didn’t use the floss—by as much as 25 percent.

This is the first study to link dental floss to higher toxic burdens of PFASs. And researchers found fluorine compounds in five other flosses, too.

Needless to say, that should concern us all.

A lot of our exposure to environmental toxins stems from the products we use in our homes every day—our clothes, our furniture, our cookware, our personal care items. (For a full account of just how pervasive these chemicals are, I advise you to check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website at www.EWG.org.)

Over the past few years, I’ve made a huge effort to purge these chemicals from my personal environment. But let me tell you—it isn’t easy. Or cheap.

It is, however, imperative. Because PFASs turn up in 95 percent of blood samples, nationally. And that kind of exposure doesn’t come without consequences.

Three ways to minimize the damage

To be clear, research has linked exposure to two forms of PFASs—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)—to kidney and testicular cancer, reduced semen quality, and ulcerative colitis in adults. And in children, the chemicals have ties to thyroid disease, immune dysfunction, and disruptions in sex and growth hormone levels.

At the risk of stating the obvious, that’s pretty scary stuff. The good news, though, is that knowing which products to avoid can help minimize your exposure.

This study showed that eating prepared food out of coated cardboard containers—think fast food—was linked to higher levels of four PFASs. So eliminating take-out is one way to reduce exposure.

Having stain-resistant carpet or furniture—and living in a city with a PFAS-contaminated water supply—also led to higher levels of these chemicals. So investing in non-toxic home goods and a good water filtration system will also make a difference.

As for dental floss, this study found detectable PFHxS in Oral-B® Glide, as well as five other flosses (three of which were branded as Glide, and two generic products that cited Oral-B® Glide as a comparable product).

So needless to say, brands matter here, too. The EWG can serve as your guide to safer, unwaxed dental flosses. Plus, you can find a floss that is made from organic silk and organic beeswax in most of your common shopping places, including Amazon. But when in doubt, you can always switch to a water pick.


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