In my mind, there are certain steps in life that stand as markers of adulthood: signing your first lease, going to vote, buying fresh broccoli because you think it will make a delicious addition to dinner. One of the moments I knew I was really, truly, actually grown up was when I began to floss every single night without hating every second of it. Now, I can't imagine life without my handy little pack of floss. But a new study found that some types of dental floss have been linked to toxic chemicals, The New York Post reports, so you might want to peek into your bathroom cabinets before you start on tonight's oral hygiene routine.
For the study, which has been published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, a medical journal covering environmental health and how toxic substances affect human beings, researchers gathered information about the self-reported consumer behaviors of 178 middle-aged women, in order to test their exposure to something called PFAS. According to the study's researchers, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are used to make many common household products water-resistant or grease-resistant. For example, PFAS might be found in cardboard food containers, nonstick kitchenware coatings, cleaning products, and even clothing items.
As it turns out, flossing with Oral-B Glide specifically, the study found after conducting blood tests of the participating women, is associated with a 24.9 percent higher level of one form of PFAS in the body.
In a statement to Elite Daily, a representative for Procter & Gamble, the manufacturer of Oral-B Glide, said, "The safety of the people who use our products is our top priority. We have confirmed none of the substances in the report are used in our dental floss. Our dental floss undergoes thorough safety testing and we stand behind the safety of all our products."
If flossing is your absolute least favorite part of your nighttime routine, this study unfortunately doesn't mean that you should begin skipping that step of your oral hygiene. Plus, there are plenty of flosses that haven't been linked to these chemicals at all. "The good news is, based on our findings, consumers can choose flosses that don't contain PFAS," lead study author Katie Boronow, a scientist at the research institute Silent Spring, said in a statement.
I can't quite explain why, but you might agree with me when I say that something about "PFAS" sounds slightly terrifying. But before you start to worry too much about whether you've come in contact with contaminated products, here's some information about what being exposed to PFAS really means: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain types of PFAS may lower your chance of getting pregnant, increase your cholesterol levels, affect your immune system, and potentially increase your risk of cancer. But it's not quite as scary as it seems: "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," as per the CDC.
Plus, the CDC explains, most people in the United States actually have some amount of PFAS in their blood, so unless you've noticed any specific health problems, chances are you're fine. If you're really concerned, pay a visit to your doctor and ask for a blood test. Just try your best to brush away (see what I did there?) any lingering worries about whether or not you've been exposed before you floss tonight.