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Oral health product linked to tumour, poor sperm quality


Scientists found using the go-to brand as part of your oral-health regimen is associated with a higher level of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals in the bloodstream.

PFAS – which are added to everything from non-stick pans and carpets for their grease-resistant properties – have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, as well as reduced semen quality and inflammatory bowel disease.

The scientists behind the study have urged the public to cut these products out of their day-to-day routines as a ‘priority’ and opt for PFAS-free floss.


The Silent Spring Institute in collaboration with the Public Health Institute in Berkeley, California, United States (U.S.) carried out the research. It was led by staff scientist Katie Boronow.

“This is the first study to show that using dental floss containing PFAS is associated with a higher body burden of these toxic chemicals,” Ms. Boronow said.

“Restricting these chemicals from products should be a priority to reduce levels in people’s bodies.

“The good news is, based on our findings, consumers can choose flosses that don’t contain PFAS.”

Companies are not required to list ingredients in their floss, however, the Oral Health Foundation pointed out Tom’s of Maine as a PFAS-free alternative. PFAS are commonly added to pans to make them non-stick, clothing to repel water and furniture to aid stain removal, the authors wrote in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology in an issue dedicated to PFAS.

Exposure to such chemicals has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, as well as reduced semen quality and ulcerative colitis in adults, the authors wrote.

Meanwhile, brushing teeth twice a day may prevent erectile dysfunction. Men who do not brush their teeth twice a day are almost three times as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction, a study found earlier this month.

Gum disease – caused by not brushing – is thought to boost the odds of damaging the blood vessels that supply the penis.

Experts from Jinan University, China, claim a review of studies involving more than 200,000 men has strengthened a direct link between the two conditions.

The research adds to growing evidence poor oral hygiene can impact a man’s performance in the bedroom and potentially have other health consequences.

PFAS may also make children more at risk of thyroid disease, impaired immunity and lower hormone levels.

To test the link between chemical exposure and everyday ‘behaviours’, the researchers analysed 178 middle-aged women who took part in the Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS).

The CHDS research collected blood samples from the participants between 2010 and 2013, and tested their exposure to 11 PFAS chemicals.

The women were also asked about nine behaviours ‘related to potential PFAS exposure’.

This was made up of six questions about food consumption, one on flossing and two on stain resistant treatments.

Results revealed the women who flossed with Oral-B Glide had higher levels of the PFAS chemical PFHxS (perfluorohexanesulfonic acid) in their bodies compared to those who did not.

Oral-B Glide has been reported to be manufactured from the PFAS chemical PTFE.

To further understand this connection, the researchers screened 18 different types of floss for fluorine as an indicator of PTFE. Fluorine was found in all three Glide products tested.

Although the other flosses were not named in the study, two were described as being ‘store brands’ that advertised as ‘compare to Oral-B Glide’ on the package.

The other product was described online as ‘single strand Teflon fiber’, the authors wrote.

Other risk factors for PFAS exposure included having stain-resistant carpet or furniture and living in a city served by a contaminated water supply. Most of the participants resided in California.

Drinking water contamination was assessed via data reported under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule.

Frequently eating food in containers coated with PFAS also raised chemical levels in the blood but only in African American women, who made up around half of the participants.

These foods are thought to include burgers, which may be wrapped in contaminated paper, the researchers wrote.

PFAS levels have previously been found to vary according to race, which is thought to be due to ‘differences in exposure-related behaviors and community-level exposures’, the authors wrote.

Speaking of the study, Dr. Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “Although concerns regarding the public’s exposure to PFAS are understandable, the full impact of these chemicals cannot solely be attached to dental products.


“PFAS are commonly found in fast food packaging, waterproof clothing and carpets. Greater research is needed to determine the true source of PFAS exposure.

“The Oral Health Foundation recommend you continue a good oral hygiene routine by brushing for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. We also encourage the daily use of interdental brushes.”

A spokesperson from Procter & Gamble, the company behind Oral-B, added: “This study interviewed people about their self-reported use of a wide array of consumer products and foods, it was not focused on dental floss alone.

“In fact they did not demonstrate a correlation with use of dental floss to an increased presence of any of the reported substances. Our dental floss undergoes thorough safety testing and we stand behind the safety of our products.”
*Adapted from DailyMailUK Online

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Oral healthPFAsPTFE
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