Elijah had his first dentist appointment last week and during the visit they packed him up a little goodie bag with a floss pick, toothbrush and toothpaste. The dental hygienist asked if he wanted sparkly toothpaste or bubblegum flavored toothpaste, but really there was no choice. It was one small tube of the same Kid’s Crest toothpaste. He picked bubblegum and in the bag it went!
We returned home and I forgot about the toothpaste until that night when Elijah wanted to brush his teeth. I had a feeling I wouldn’t like what I saw in the ingredient list and I was right. There were several ingredients listed that made me cringe. The Crest website claims, “The fun sparkles and bubblegum flavor of Crest Kid’s Cavity Protection Toothpaste make brushing enjoyable and encourage the daily habit.” I don’t have trouble getting Elijah to brush his teeth with the clear, non-sparkle strawberry toothpaste he uses.
Some of the concerning ingredients in the toothpaste included sodium lauryl sulfate, trisodium phosphate, sodium phosphate, sodium saccharin, Blue 1, and fluoride. I am not even sure what is all included in the “sparkles”.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate– it is a synthetic surfactant, known to cause skin irritation.
- Trisodium phosphate AND Sodium Phosphate– It is used as a cleaning agent. It rates a 1 on EWG, but has shown to cause eutrophication of lakes and rivers once it enters the water system. This is the case with many phosphate-based cleaners. When a phosphate based cleaner enters the water system it can lead to an overgrowth of plants and algae. When these plants die it creates a state where they consume the oxygen in the water causing a state of hypoxia.
- Sodium Saccharin– An artificial sweetener that has been under investigation for some time due to it’s safety concerns and whether or not it causes cancer. At this time it is deemed safe and only shown to cause harm in rats in mice, but it’s something I avoid as there are other options that are safer and I’m more comfortable using.
- Blue 1– is a synthetic dye made from petroleum, and scores a 3 on EWG. I strongly avoid artificial food coloring as I don’t believe it belongs in our products to make them look more pretty.
- Flouride– A report published in The Lancet Neurology, http://thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(13)70278-3/fulltext, noted that a systematic review identified five different similar industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene. There were also six additional developmental neurotoxicants which were identified: manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers. There are likely other neurotoxicants that exist, but haven’t been identified. There is a rise in neurodevelopmental disabilities, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments. These disorders affect millions of children worldwide in what the authors call a “pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity.” Kids tend to swallow a fair amount of their toothpaste so over time it can build up in the tissues. Another thing to consider is that the amount of fluoride that builds up on the tooth enamel with toothpaste is so little that it is questionable how beneficial it is. A safer alternative is choosing a toothpaste with xylitol.
When Elijah pulled the toothpaste out that night I had to make a decision to either let him use it or explain to him why I didn’t want him to use it and see how that went. I chose to first explain to him why I didn’t want him using it and he had a better option in his drawer. He was completely fine with throwing it away. Part of my journey is being sure to teach Elijah how to make safer choices, but also to create a balance for him to enjoy his childhood. It’s not always easy!
And, my other part of this journey is to be a voice for change in the shift to safer ingredients and products for all of us. When we know better, we can do better.