A recent Channel 4 programme called “How Toxic are Your Kids” identified certain “risk” factors in your toothpaste. Sadly this programme has chosen to follow the now all too popular approach of “pseudo-science” and scare tactics to push home a very poorly researched agenda.
The so called risks related to the active ingredients of Fluoride and Triclosan and the ever popular sodium lauryl sulphate. I’m not going to go into a point by point argument here about the science used in the programme (things like this are dealt with much better on far superior websites such as The Guardian’s badscience page) but I would like to make the following points.
- There is no such thing as zero risk; only balance of probability
- It is very easy to make arguments based on emotional grounds but very difficult to accumulate sound scientific data
- It is, to all intents and purposes, impossible to prove that a risk (or a link) does not exist, only that one does exist
- Fluoride toothpaste has been shown to half tooth decay rates in children. Triclosan has helped improve on this
- Tooth decay is, of course, highly toxic and can cause pain, infection and severe suffering in young children in particular
I should also add that the suggested alternative of a mixture containing lemon juice and rock salt may just be the worst idea for a toothpaste ever suggested. Lemon juice is highly acidic and would dissolve dental enamel very quickly and high levels of salt, if swallowed would be very dangerous for children.
A lot of this can be summed up in a photo I took in California on a recent trip. The following warning sign appears in front of every restaurant in the state, and is quite clearly utterly pointless. Warning people of every theoretical risk does not help them make meaningful decisions, it merely confuses the issue and, in the case of this sign, eventually becomes completely redundant.