PFAS? In My Dental Floss?!

December 09, 2020

PFAS? In My Dental Floss?!

Many Michiganders are unfortunately familiar with the acronym "PFAS" (which stands for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance), because several sources of our drinking water have been contaminated by these dangerous chemicals.  A lot of the water contamination has been sourced back to factories illegally dumping chemical waste and routine testing of firefighting chemicals.

There have been many news stories in the last several years due to scandals involving township governments that have ignored or tried to cover up PFAS contamination in their drinking water.  If you are not already filtering your drinking water, now is a great time to start!  Although awareness about drinking water is rising, not many people realize that many everyday household products also contain PFAS.

What Are PFAS?

PFAS are man-made chemicals that were invented in the 1950s and have become common in industrial and household products worldwide.  They have properties that make them useful in applications like non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, certain cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and any number of product designed to resist grease, water, and oil.

What Are the Dangers of PFAS?

A large number of studies have evaluated the confirmed health risks of high blood levels of PFAS, which include:

  • Increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Changes in liver enzymes
  • Decreases in infant birth weights
  • Decreased vaccine response in children
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women
What About My Floss?

Most commercially available dental floss has been coated with chemicals that contain PFAS in order to make it glide more easily around teeth.  Dental floss picks are even worse - not only are you ingesting PFAS chemicals, each single-use pick generates unnecessary plastic waste.

Healthy Alternatives

If you're shocked to learn this truth about your floss, consider switching to a more eco-friendly and health-conscious alternative.  We currently carry two varieties of naturally waxed and naturally flavored floss from Desert Essence.  We may bring in more varieties in the future as well!

Tea Tree Oil Dental Tape

Tea Tree Oil Dental Floss


Other Common Sources of Exposure

Here's a list of the most common sources of exposure, according to the CDC:

1. Drinking contaminated municipal water or private well water 

2. Eating fish caught from water contaminated by PFAS (PFOS, in particular)

3. Accidentally swallowing contaminated soil or dust 

4. Eating food that was packaged in material that contains PFAS.  *Note: Many fast-food and carry-out food & drink containers have an inner coating that contains PFAS.  How can you tell?  Usually these containers are made from cardboard or paper and have a waxy coating on the inside that prevents the paper from absorbing liquid or grease.

5. Using some consumer products such as non-stick cookware, stain resistant carpeting, and water repellant clothing.  *Note: If you are using non-stick cookware, especially if the coating has been damaged and is flaking off, switch ASAP to a non-coated option such as stainless steel, ceramic or cast iron.

Research has suggested that exposure to PFOA and PFOS from today’s consumer products is usually low, especially when compared to exposures to contaminated drinking water. Some products that may contain PFAS include: 

  • Some grease-resistant paper, fast food containers/wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and candy wrappers 
  • Nonstick cookware 
  • Stain resistant coatings used on carpets, upholstery, and other fabrics 
  • Water resistant clothing 
  • Cleaning products 
  • Personal care products (shampoo, dental floss) and cosmetics (nail polish, eye makeup) 
  • Paints, varnishes, and sealants 

Michigan PFAS Action Reponse Team

CDC: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Further Reading: TreeHugger Article About PFAS in Dental Floss

Further Reading: Lindsay Dahl Article About PFAS in Dental Floss

Blog Post by Caitlin Potere