September 12th, 2011
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Is your toothpaste causing Cancer?

colgate herbalNew Delhi: A study by the Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research (DIPSAR) has found that many of the toothpaste manufacturers are adulterating toothpastes and tooth powders with cancer causing high quantity of nicotine. DIPSAR is affiliated to the Delhi University and is funded by the Delhi government.

“Out of the 24 brands of toothpastes studied in 2011, seven brands – Colgate Herbal, Himalaya, Neem paste, Neem Tulsi, RA Thermoseal, Sensoform and Stoline – were found to contain nicotine,” said Professor S. S. Agarwal of DIPSAR. “Colgate Herbal and Neem Tulsi, also a herbal product, surprisingly had 18 and 10 mg of nicotine, which is equivalent to the quantity found in nine and five cigarettes respectively,” Prof Agarwal added.

“Out of the ten brands of toothpowders examined, six – Dabur Red, Vicco, Musaka Gul, Payokil, Unadent and Alka Dantmanjan – were found to contain nicotine. Payokil was found to have the highest 16 mg of tobacco, which is equivalent of what a person consumes after smoking eight cigarettes. Vicco was found to have used tobacco consecutively for three years in its toothpowder, while Dabur Red resumed mixing tobacco in 2011 after stopping it in 2008,”Prof Agarwal said.

The findings were, however, strongly refuted by the manufacturers of some of the dental creams and toothpowders named by DIPSAR. According to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, tobacco cannot be added to non-tobacco products like toothpastes and toothpowders. There has been a strong violation of Section 7(5) of the Act lays down rules that every tobacco package should have nicotine and tar contents along with the maximum permissible limits, which is not being done by these toothpaste manufacturers. Moreover, as nicotine and tar are carcinogens, the manufacturers should mention them among contents along with their permissible limits on the packages to help people make an informed choice. But the manufacturers haven’t mentioned it.

Prof Agarwal said that he has now written to the Union ministry of health and family welfare, drug controller-general of India and Delhi drug controller about the rampant tobacco adulteration in toothpowders and toothpastes. “Addition of tobacco is banned under central excise but it is still being added; do they forward it to the drug controller-general of India? Nicotine action is believed to be responsible for the drug induced feeling of pleasure and addiction”, said Prof Agarwal.

“Nicotine in toothpastes can have the same ill effects as that in tobacco products like cigarettes and paan products. The nicotine is absorbed by the tongue and saliva in the mouth. It can lead to staining of teeth too and damage the whole enamel,” warned Dr Rakesh Malhotra, senior dental surgeon, Centre for Advanced Dentistry. Toothpaste that contains nicotine can be as addictive as other nicotine products, he added. Nicotine can be absorbed by the lips, tongue, the floor of the mouth, the top roof of the mouth, cheeks and the gums leading to problems like oral inflammation and cancer.

“Oral ingestion of nicotine can lead to oral cancer and cancer causing agents can also get into the lining of the stomach, esophagus and into the bladder,” Dr Malhotra said. Other side- effects of nicotine consumption include drooling. Children are particularly impacted by this, and may even report a burning sensation in the mouth.

According to Dr R C Jiloha of the psychiatry department, G. B. Pant Hospital, “Nicotine is distributed throughout the body, mostly to skeletal muscles and binds to the receptors in the brain, where it influences the cerebral metabolism.”


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