This is nothing to smile about.
Oral-B Glide dental floss contributes to elevated levels of toxic PFAS chemicals in the body, according to a new study from the Silent Spring Institute in collaboration with the Public Health Institute in Berkeley, California.
Scientists are concerned about widespread exposure to PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in the population because the water- and grease-proof substances have been linked with kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, low birth weight, decreased fertility and immune system damage.
The new research, published this week in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, offers new insight into how these chemicals end up in people’s bodies and how consumers can limit their exposures by modifying their behavior.
“This is the first study to show that using dental floss containing PFAS is associated with a higher body burden of these toxic chemicals,” says lead author Katie Boronow, a staff scientist at Silent Spring. “The good news is, based on our findings, consumers can choose flosses that don’t contain PFAS.”
Researchers measured 11 different PFAS chemicals in blood samples taken from 178 middle-aged women enrolled in the Public Health Institute’s Child Health and Development Studies, a multigenerational study of the impact of environmental chemicals and other factors on disease.
To understand how people’s behavior influences their exposure to PFAS, the researchers then compared the blood measurements with results from interviews in which they asked the women about nine behaviors that could lead to higher exposures. Half of the women in the analysis were non-Hispanic white and half were African-American.
Women who flossed with Oral-B Glide tended to have higher levels of a type of PFAS called PFHxS (perfluorohexanesulfonic acid) in their body compared with those who didn’t. To further understand the results, the researchers tested 18 dental flosses (including three Glide products) for the presence of fluorine — a marker of PFAS — using a technique called particle-induced gamma-ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy.
All three Glide flosses tested positive for fluorine, as did two store brands with “compare to Oral-B Glide” labels. One floss touting itself as a “single strand Teflon fiber” also tested positive for fluorine.
A representative for Procter & Gamble, which manufactures Glide products, tells The Post, “The safety of the people who use our products is our No. 1 priority. Our dental floss undergoes thorough safety testing and we stand by the safety of all our products.”
Boronow’s team points out that the public also is exposed to PFAS in fast-food packaging, nonstick pans, waterproof clothing and stain-resistant carpets. African-American women who reported that they frequently ate prepared food packaged in coated cardboard containers, such as french fries or takeout, had elevated blood levels of four PFAS chemicals compared to women who rarely ate such food. Researchers did not see the same relationship with prepared food among non-Hispanic whites.
This is nothing to smile about.