The average American will use 20 gallons of toothpaste in their lifetime, and a new study by the Cornucopia Institute, a non-profit organization that studies ecological best practices, makes clear we should all be concerned about exposure to toxic ingredients found in toothpastes. Chemicals in toothpaste are readily absorbed through the membrane that lines the mouth (oral mucosa), meaning that, regardless of whether you swallow toothpaste or not, you are exposing yourself to some level of absorption. Children, who we know often do swallow toothpaste, are even more at risk.
When we use personal care products, we make the assumption that what we have purchased is safe and won’t harm us. We might be assuming wrong. Look no further than the current problems faced by some users of Wen hair products. Unlike pharmaceuticals, which are regulated closely by the Food and Drug Administration, the cosmetic industry, which includes personal care products like shampoos, hair care and toothpaste, is free from scrutiny from the FDA. The regulatory agency has no power of review or recall over products, nor are industry products required to even list all of their ingredients. Instead, the $71 billion industry regulates itself. And that always works out great!
Self-regulation results in a startling difference between products sold in the U.S. and those sold in Canada, Europe and Japan, where personal care products are more closely regulated. “We have a very weak regulatory system in the United States, compared to Europe and other industrialized countries, in terms of evaluating synthetic compounds in our food and personal care products,” says Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute. “Other countries operate on the ‘precautionary principle,’ assuring that chemicals are safe before they are authorized for use. In our system of government, dominated by corporations funding congressional campaigns and employing legions of lobbyists and lawyers, we don't end up evaluating dangerous chemicals until after they have already been introduced into our bloodstreams.”