Test: Which chemicals are used in toothpaste?

18. sep 2020

Toothpastes are often free from problematic chemicals, but some of them contain substances that are suspected of being endocrine disruptors.

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Test: Which chemicals are used in toothpaste?
Photo: Anne Beck Christensen

Test: Many types of toothpaste are without problematic substances

The test of toothpastes by the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals shows that many toothpastes on the Danish market are good choices.

In the test almost half of the products tested, receive the best chemical rating (A).  

See the test results with product pictures (In Danish)

Aroma: Perfume is needed for flavor in toothpaste

Perfume is listed in the test, but not included in the overall assessment of toothpastes.

Perfume (Aroma) is apparently necessary to make a usable toothpaste where the taste is o.k.

1 toothpaste in the test – Proxident - is without perfume or aroma. You can choose that, if you want to be free from perfume.

Unwanted chemicals: What to look for in toothpaste

In the test, 8 toothpastes get the lowest rating (C). The toothpastes contain substances suspected of being endocrine disruptors:

  • Parabens
  • BHT
  • Triclosan

Endocrine disruptors, for example, can affect the ability to have children or contribute to certain cancers.

The drug triclosan has long been in the spotlight as an unwanted substance. In addition to being able to affect the hormonal system, it can also accumulate in the environment and is suspected to create resistant bacteria.

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you avoid triclosan completely. Triclosan, was found in the test in a toothpaste from Pierrot. Triclosan was previously used in Colgate Total, but it has now been phased out.

The cocktail effect: The overall exposure is problematic - not the individual product

Generally, it is a good idea to limit your exposure to endocrine disruptors when possible. This keeps your total exposure as low as possible.

The individual toothpaste will not pose any health risk, even if it contains substances suspected of being endocrine disruptors.

However, your total exposure to these substances may contribute to endocrine disrupting effects. This is known as the cocktail effect.

How we tested

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has purchased a large selection of toothpastes from the Danish market, primarily in stores and in web shops.

The ingredient lists have been reviewed for substances that may have problematic effects. The test is a declarations test, and it does not take the concentration into account.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test methods

What we found

A total of 57 toothpastes are included in the test. They are distributed as follows:

  • 26 get best chemicals rating A
  • 23 receives a medium chemical rating B, based on substances that may be harmful to the environment
  • 8 receive lowest chemical rating C, based on their content of suspected endocrine disruptors

Perfume is included in all toothpastes except in a single one. Perfume is not rated in toothpaste. It is generally considered necessary as to obtain a usable toothpaste. The National Allergy Research Center in Denmark has previously stated that toothpaste is rarely a source of allergies.

BHT is an antioxidant suspected of being endocrine disruptor. The substance was found in 2 toothpastes in the test

Triclosan is an antibacterial substance suspected, among other things, of being endocrine disruptor. Triclosane  can accumulate in the body and is suspected for a variety of unwanted health effects. The substance was found in 1 toothpaste in the test.

Parabens in the form of propylparaben, sodium propylparaben, methyl paraben, sodium methylparaben are suspected to be endocrine disruptors. Parabens were found in 6 toothpastes in the test.

See the test results with product pictures (In Danish)

For further questions contact Christel Søgaard Kirkeby on csk@fbr.dk