Even toothpaste labeled as “natural” contains dangerous ingredients, according to a new study from organic industry watchdog The Cornucopia Institute. Researchers found hormone disruptors, irritants, inflammatory agents and even possible carcinogens in products Americans brush their teeth with every day.
Some “natural” toothpastes contained carrageenan (which according to some studies can lead to inflammation and even tumors), triclosan (currently under evaluation by the FDA), and suspected GMO components.
“Companies are playing fast and loose with consumer confidence,” Cornucopia Institute Cofounder Mark Kastle told Lady Freethinker. “And although regulators are not protecting the interest of the public there have been a number of class-action lawsuits against the purveyors of natural body care and food products and that hammer, hanging over the head of corporate executives, has weight.”
The report highlights how popularity and price are irrelevant when it comes to human health risk. Major brands like Colgate, Crest and Kiss My Face scored among the worst in terms of potentially harmful components.
Some toothpastes, however, did live up to the “natural” promise: No toxins were found in Dr. Bronner’s All-One toothpaste, Happy Teeth organic toothpaste, and Miessence toothpaste.
Cornucopia created a scorecard showing the results of all brands tested.
“The scorecard is designed to be instructive,” said Kastle. “Our work should empower consumers to look at labels and do their own ratings right in the aisles of their local grocery store or hypermarket.”
The findings of the report also trigger broader discussions on the role of advertisement, lobbies and regulations. Currently, there is no legislation to prevent or sanction the misleading claims.
The United States’ policy on chemicals and cosmetics is also much laxer than Japan’s and Europe’s. In the U.S., only 11 ingredients used in cosmetics are either restricted or prohibited by the FDA. In the E.U., however, more than 1500 ingredients either prohibited or restricted. Europe adopts chemicals based on the “precautionary principle.”
“[In Europe], these materials are proven to be safe, then they are introduced into the human food chain, or into products that we have intimate contact with,” said Kastle. “In the U.S., we wait until there is conclusive evidence that they cause cancer or other deleterious impacts, and only then do we pull them off the market after some citizens have been exposed, potentially, for decades.”
Kastle notes one key difference between U.S. and the E.U. policy making: lobbies.
“The difference between Europe and the United States is that corporations have much less influence on lawmakers vis-à-vis contributions to federal campaigns and the legions of lobbyists in Washington.”
While it is true that lobbies play a smaller role in the E.U., after years of chemicals regulation, Europeans have also become more attentive consumers and serve as corporate watchdogs. This is why many in the E.U. look unfavorably upon the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). So far, there is no information on whether the “precautionary principle” will still apply to U.S. products. And it is a principle few are ready to give up.
Until the U.S. adopts more comprehensive policies on consumer safety, it will remain difficult to know which potentially toxic ingredients taint personal-care items like toothpaste — no matter what the labels say.