Photo: How to avoid toxic chemicals in toothpaste

Avoid SLS and Triclosan in toothpaste. (Credit: henna lion via Flickr)

Toothpaste is tricky.

When we asked 6,000 Canadians to look for the Dirty Dozen in their personal care products, we learned that oral care products were the ones most likely NOT to have an ingredient list.

It's one of those personal care products regulated as a "drug", not a cosmetic, on the basis of therapeutic claims like "tartar-fighting".

What does this mean for you and me? Only "active ingredients" are required to be listed on the package. Many sunscreens, antiperspirants and anti-bacterial cleansers also fall into this "drug" category, bypassing the requirement for a complete ingredient list.

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For your next toothpaste purchase, look for a product that provides a full ingredient list.

Keep an eye out for triclosan (an anti-bacterial agent) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLS or SLES), which are commonly found in toothpaste, then avoid them. In the future if you buy toothpaste with one of the Dirty Dozen by accident, take it back to the store. Most retailers will honour a return. You could also write to the manufacturer.

The good news is that many toothpastes on store shelves don't contain any of the Dirty Dozen. You just might have to look at a health food store or an organic grocer. Ultimately, it would be great if we didn't have to shop defensively.

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