This photo has been floating around my Facebook feed. It’s been shared hundreds of thousands of times, so maybe you’ve seen it too. You may have even shared it yourself. Allegedly, the little blocks on the bottom of toothpaste tubes reveal how toxic the product is.
- Green: Natural
- Blue: Natural + Medicine
- Red: Natural + Chemical Composition
- Black: Pure chemical
Is it true that you can simply check the color bar to determine how toxic the product is? No. To the consumer, the marks mean absolutely nothing. They’re called “eye marks” or “color marks” and are read by light beam sensors to identify where the product should be cut or folded during manufacturing.
This warning (which, again, is total bullshit), doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. So chemicals are bad? All chemicals? What’s natural? What is “medicine” and what kind of medicine is in toothpaste? Color me confused.
Let’s say you are concerned about the ingredients of commercial toothpaste (valid concern for many) and want to make your own toothpaste. Here’s a good recipe. There’s several optional ingredients, but the main, necessary ingredients are baking soda, calcium powder and coconut oil. Both baking soda and calcium powder are… chemicals. Pure chemicals. And that’s Ok because chemicals aren’t always bad.
That’s the good news. The bad news is… there probably is some gnarly stuff in your toothpaste you didn’t know about. Ironically, toothpaste (you know, the stuff you use to clean your teeth) is full of artificial sweeteners, dyes, preservatives and artificial flavors. I recently discovered this while falling further into the natural living rabbit hole and while I don’t think it’s notably dangerous, I just don’t think it’s necessary.
Many people, including Dr. Oz for example, choose to avoid the chemical Triclosan, which is found in many anti-bacterial products and toothpaste. (Colgate Total is one with Triclosan) Recent studies revealed that using products with Triclosan long-term can increase bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics and may be harmful to the immune system. Also, animal studies have shown the chemical alters hormone regulation. A study in the past week revealed the chemical may even damage sperm and interfere with male fertility.
But, it may be harmful to humans. It provides absolutely no benefit when used in antibacterial soaps and body washes, regular old soap and water is actually better. It does prevent gingivitis, but so does just brushing and flossing your teeth. There is a lot of controversy surrounding Triclosan, lots of dangerous claims and lots of unanswered questions. The FDA is conducting an ongoing review. Based on the documented risks, the few documented benefits and the FDA’s not so reassuring collective shoulder shrug, I’m personally opting to avoid the chemical. It’s easy to avoid.
The Environmental Working Group has a really extensive list of commercially available toothpastes. You can search for your own toothpaste or find a new option with fewer potential hazards.
Don’t fear all chemicals, but feel free to educate yourself on the sketchy ones and determine if the benefit outweighs the potential risk for your family. And check Snopes before reposting. 😉