Dental floss coated with a "non-stick coating" has long been a concern of mine. Do the Teflon-like chemicals get into the person when a person is flossing teeth?
These chemical compounds (called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFASs) are linked to health problems (e.g. kidney and testicular cancer, semen quality, thyroid disease, immune system effects, and lowered sex and growth hormones in children) - so you want to avoid them if possible. It turns out these chemicals are shed into the person's mouth when flossing and can be measured in a person's blood.
Bottom line: avoid non-stick smooth dental floss such as Oral-B Glide dental floss (or when the dental floss label brags that it is similar to Glide dental floss). Use plain waxed or unwaxed floss instead.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are a group of chemicals used in a wide variety of consumer products because they have water- and grease-resistant properties. They are used in nonstick cookware, in food packaging (especially the paper wrappers and cardboard containers) , stain-resistant carpets, furniture, floor waxes, textiles, water-proof and stain-resistant clothing (such as Gore-tex fabric), and performance gear.
How do they get into us? Some ways: the chemicals can migrate out of food packaging into food, or can be released into the air and dust from carpets and upholstery treated with stain-resistant coatings. PFASs have been detected in water, soil, and in the bodies of almost all Americans!
This study (and others) found that higher levels of these chemicals in the body occur with the following: frequent consumption of prepared food in coated cardboard containers, having stain-resistant carpets or furniture, using Oral-B Glide dental floss, and living in a city served by a PFAS-contaminated water supply.
It may not be possible to totally avoid all PFASs, but one can lower exposure to them (for example, don't have stain-resistant carpets in the house or apartment, and try to eat less fast-food).
A new study suggests certain types of consumer behaviors, including flossing with Oral-B Glide dental floss, contribute to elevated levels in the body of toxic PFAS chemicals. PFAS are water- and grease-proof substances that have been linked with numerous health problems. The findings provide new insight into how these chemicals end up in people's bodies and how consumers can limit their exposures by modifying their behavior.
The study, led by Silent Spring Institute in collaboration with the Public Health Institute in Berkeley, CA, appears online January 8 in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology (JESEE), and is part of a special issue dedicated to PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).
PFAS are used in a range of consumer products, including fast food packaging, non-stick pans, waterproof clothing, and stain-resistant carpets. People can be exposed to the substances directly through the products they use and the food they eat. They can also be exposed through indoor air and dust and contaminated drinking water.
Scientists are concerned about widespread exposure to PFAS in the population because the chemicals have been linked with health effects including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, low birth weight, decreased fertility, and effects on the immune system.
In the new study, 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.
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 connection, the researchers tested 18 dental flosses (including 3 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 products tested positive for fluorine, consistent with previous reports that Glide is manufactured using Teflon-like compounds. In addition, two store brand flosses with "compare to Oral-B Glide" labelling and one floss describing itself as a "single strand Teflon fiber" tested positive for fluorine.
Other behaviors that were associated with higher PFAS levels included having stain-resistant carpet or furniture and living in a city served by a PFAS-contaminated drinking water supply. Additionally, among African American women, those who frequently ate prepared food 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. The researchers did not see the same relationship with prepared food among non-Hispanic whites.
Overall, non-Hispanic whites tended to have higher levels of two PFAS chemicals, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFHxS, compared with African Americans. The researchers could not explain the differences, suggesting that there are other behaviors they didn't measure that contribute to PFAS exposure.