First up: toothpaste.
This item is likely a daily function of everyone reading, and if not you should probably get that figured out before dissecting the toothpaste market. But if you do want to make an impulse buy, I’d go with David’s, Georganics Toothpaste Tablets, or Dr. Bronners.
Just so we’re all on the same page, I have absolutely no qualifications as an oral hygienist, I’m just a girl who's spent an above average amount of time researching toothpaste. The three products I listed were chosen based on their lack of harmful ingredients. The harmful ones I've recently learned about are found in pretty much all big brand toothpastes: Crest, Colgate, even Toms😪. This isn’t surprising since the vast majority of conglomerate corporations are using chemicals, toxins, pollutants and other harmful ingredients for the sake of profit and at the expense of health.
But I digress.
The most glaringly problematic ingredients I learned about are: saccharin, charcoal, and dyes commonly branded as Blue 1 or Red 30. Some questionable ingredients include: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), carrageenan and the infamous fluoride. Like I said, I’m not a dentist but I am personally choosing to (mostly) avoid all of these after extensive reading on them.
To break it down:
Saccharin is an artificial sweetener, all of which come with a slew of health implications including obesity, diabetes and addiction but I actually found the environmental effects of this ingredient especially enlightening. Because artificial sweeteners are not natural, they cannot degrade naturally and end up being released back into the environment as pollutants. They often are released into our water (...back down the sink after we spit?) and go on to affect aquatic life and food production🤯. How? Artificial sweeteners can actually stop photosynthesis in plants, thus destroying our entire ecosystem. I’m no scientist but this sounds like an alarming statement. The article above labels the issue as having, "great potential for a domino effect", which is an important reminder of how the minute decisions we are make each day are impacting our future and planet beyond what we see. Also, saccharin is approved by the FDA which makes me question the valor of an administration designed to keep its people healthy. I'm just not sure what kind of regulations we'll need when plants stop photosynthesizing, but I'm sure they'll come up with them.
Charcoal is a fad which is accomplishing exactly what it claims to do: making your teeth look whiter......while slowly degrading and permanently damaging the outer surface of your teeth and eventually leading to yellowing. They don't really advertise that part.
And I don't even really understand why "Blue 1" is an acceptable label for an ingredient in our foods and hygiene products in the first place. Like, they just figured, "if we make the font small enough on the ingredients no one will notice?". These color-number combinations we call ingredients are made from petroleum or crude oils, enough of a reason to pass on them. But don't worry there is plenty more incentive. Many widely used dyes are contaminated with carcinogens and proven to be a cause of behavioral problems such as ADD and hyperactivity.
I won't get into the debatable ingredients so much just as to say that SLS is a known inflammatory and irritant and carrageenan has been banned by the USDA in organic foods and has a lot of controversy surrounding its safety. High levels of fluoride can be harmful and I've decided to only brush with fluoride a couple times a week. We often get high quantities of fluoride from tap water so it's a good idea to stick to filtered water if possible.
On the bright side! The commonly-seen ingredient Xylitol is a safe, and naturally occurring sweetener that can substitute artificial sweeteners and fluoride. This natural alcohol is actually found in our bodies and helps fight tooth decay. Xylitol also decreases plaque formation and repairs damaged tooth enamel.
And lastly, when you get to the end of that tube, check out your local recycling center's website to see if toothpaste is accepted. The search should literally take one minute or less, just look up municipal recycling in whatever city you're in or the private company if you use one. If your place of residence doesn't have recycling, it's generally easy to find drop-off center near you. You can always reach out to me and I'm happy to help search! If the accepted items in your area's recycling center are not clear, pick up the phone and call them. We all owe it to ourselves and the world around us to do what we can within our means to create a healthier environment. You can also join Terracycle, an incredible company that allows you to send back used items from different brands to recycle them for free.
And that is officially more than enough toothpaste talk for today but I feel so much better knowing what will be in my toothpaste from here on out and I hope you feel more confident that your next toothpaste purchase will be healthier and safer for you and the earth :).