Is Your Toothpaste Toxic? Organic Panic Asks the Experts

If the first half hour of Organic Panic added fuel to the already heated debate surrounding organic products, and the dangers of conventional cosmetics, its second episode continues to stoke discussion. This time, the focus is on personal care products – from shampoos, to moisturizers – both raising and answering questions about the compounds we use on a daily basis. Once again, Organic Panic offers a nuanced look at the arguments made by the industry, and green advocates who believe our health depends on greater regulation of the chemicals it uses.

Enter Holly, a lawyer looking to find out whether the care products meant to improve our daily lives are really slowly eroding her overall health with hidden toxins and untested ingredients. She tries to buy organic when she has the option, but like many of her fellow consumers, hasn’t thought too much about why that is. Now, she wonders if maybe the illnesses experienced by a number of people in her life could be related to chemicals she knows little about. Can she avoid the same fate by going organic?

Organic Panic HollyAdria Vasil, author and advocate for all things green, thinks so. When the two of them meet, the writer behind NOW magazine’s Ecoholic column explains to Holly why certain chemicals could disrupt the function of the body’s endocrine system. A number of those chemicals have been banned in other countries, but to Holly’s surprise, are still legal in Canada. Even her favourite brand of toothpaste contains the potentially harmful Triclosan.

Holly takes Adria’s advice with a grain of salt, however, and is curious to learn more about her sources. That skepticism seems well founded when we hear from a Health Canada inspector who is quick to outline measures that the government takes to monitor personal care products. Her words are reinforced by an industry representative (and former provincial minster for health). He assures Holly conventional personal care products are carefully tested and stringently monitored by the companies that produce them.

Adria Vasil, author and organics advocate

Adria Vasil, author and organics advocate

This leaves Holly in a confusing position. She realizes the decisions she makes about products used for personal care come down to whether or not she feels she can trust regulators to keep harmful chemicals off of store shelves and out her home. Will the industry and government representatives’ words be enough to convince her that the creams, pastes, and powders in her bathroom cabinet are really safe to use? Will she ditch her dentist-recommended toothpaste for a green product? Sub her hand soap for an organic bar?

Her choices, and ours, could have a lasting impact both on our own lives and the wellbeing of the planet. Tune in to Organic Panic’s second installment to watch as the organics debate continues to play out onscreen, and across the country, and decide for yourself where you stand on what could be one of the most important health issues of our time.

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