Letters to the editor, September 2012

This article was originally published in September 2012

Toothpaste and tooth enamel

Dr. Johnson’s August cover story, Choosing Toothpaste, was very thorough, and the chart is a great way to summarize the ingredients of the various brands. One issue I’d like to point out is his brief mention of glycerin in the “other ingredients” section.

A chemist, Gerard F. Judd, Ph.D., did extensive research on the chemistry of the mouth. He found that a whole-food diet, rich in calcium and phosphate, results in re-enamelization of the teeth but only when they are clean. The problem is that toothpastes routinely include glycerin, which leaves a film on the teeth, preventing the re-enamelization process.

He recommends using tooth soap instead of toothpaste. I’ve been using Uncle Harry’s mint-flavored tooth soap for a couple of years. At first I used too much and I looked like a mad dog, with suds flowing out my mouth and down my throat. I quickly got used to it and use it with my Sonicare as well as with a manual toothbrush. The label on Uncle Harry’s does list 3 percent glycerin but I talked to the company and they said it is only that which is generated in the soap-making process; they don’t add any. There also are other brands available. Thanks,
— T. Alan Younker, P.E.

Author Dr. Bradley Johnson, D.D.S, M.S.D. replies: There are several researchers who advocate tooth soap, where natural soap takes the place of fairly harsh synthetic detergents such as sodium laurel sulfate. A soap specified for use on teeth, such as Alan suggests, is a rational choice.

His point regarding glycerin also is valid. Glycerin is in most pastes and gels and, yes, its purpose is to make the teeth feel smooth, which can mask how clean the teeth really are from brushing. This coating also may inhibit re-mineralization of the tooth enamel. The brands at PCC that do not contain glycerin as a major ingredient are Eco-Dent tooth powder, IPSAB tooth powder, and Coral White toothpaste.

About the demineralization process (fostered by anti-plaque ingredients), the Eco-Dent tooth powder contains an ingredient (dicalcium phosphate) that specifically encourages re-mineralization of the tooth enamel.

PCC note: Our buyers are looking into the availability of tooth soaps through our suppliers.


Dr. Bradley Johnson wrote a thorough article about toothpastes and their ingredients, and you printed a helpful chart that compared toothpastes available at PCC. These were both well done, and very helpful.

As holistic dentists, we and our colleagues have one comment in relation to fluoride. He acknowledges the controversy over ingested fluoride, but still seems to recommend the alleged decay-fighting properties of topical fluoride via toothpastes.

It is the position of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology and nearly every holistic-oriented dentist we know, that fluoride in toothpastes has not been shown (in good scientific research) to be significantly effective in preventing decay. Since there will be an unknown amount absorbed into the system by swallowing or just absorbing into the oral tissues, there is concern about the toxic systemic effect of fluoride, which has been well documented.

A recent Harvard University meta-analysis, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), concluded ingested fluoride from fluoridated drinking water is linked statistically to lower IQ levels in children and may be a neurotoxicant that affects brain development. Dr. Bradley and many others make a distinction between ingested and topical fluoride. We think there’s reason to be concerned about both and recommend toothpastes without fluoride.
— Paul G. Rubin, D.D.S.
— Mitchell Marder, D.D.S.

Nanoparticles in food?

I’m just reading an article about nanoparticles and that they might even be in foods and sunscreen, in addition to clothing. So I’m wondering if PCC has a way to find out if the products you’re buying have any nanoparticles in them, because the article says they don’t have to be labeled.
— Jeannie Moskowitz

PCC replies: You’re right — nanoparticles are not labeled, although they’ve been used since the 1990s in skin moisturizers, sunscreens, mineral makeup and other cosmetics (reportedly Revlon, L’Oréal and Estée Lauder). Nanoparticles more recently are being used in food and packaging.

All our sunscreen vendors affirmed in 2009 that none of the titanium dioxide in their products was produced through nanotechnology. So far, we don’t know what if any of our other cosmetics or processed foods might contain nano ingredients as the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) refusal to require labeling makes it a daunting task to find out.

FDA warned manufacturers in April they cannot assume nano-sized versions of traditional ingredients are safe. Yet it suggested food companies need to determine themselves if their nanoparticles need regulation!

The concern is that ingredients manipulated in laboratories through nanotechnology to artificially small sizes (measured to billionths of a meter) often have novel properties considered dangerous to human and environmental health. Research shows nanoparticles can be very reactive or catalytic. They’re smaller than a red blood cell and able to pass through cell membranes into the bloodstream and various organs because of their very small size. This may be one reason why nanoparticles are generally more toxic than larger particles of the same composition. Their interactions with biological systems are largely unknown.

Carrageenan and other synthetics

Please consider reprinting articles from Dr. Mercola’s website (mercola.com) regarding the serious situation with non-organic ingredients, such as carrageenan and other substances, making their way into so-called organic foods. This is shocking!

I am so disappointed to read this info. It means I can no longer use most of the milk substitute products. Why are they using carrageenan anyway? Almond milk, coconut milk, etc. don’t need any thickening. The products would be just fine without it.

The average consumer is not going to connect digestive issues with carrageenan since digestion is impacted by so many factors: dairy, sugar, gluten grains, additives, etc. We absolutely must be vigilant in protecting the integrity of the organic name. I see its growing popularity being taken advantage of — sincere consumers being duped into accepting products as “clean” and healthful. I am especially concerned for young, conscientious parents trying to provide for their children in the best possible way.

Please forward this info on to the various milk substitute manufacturers. Thank you for your interest in airing these concerns.
— Deanne Truess, PCC Member since 1973

PCC replies: We recognize the volume and difficulty of the information before the National Organic Standards Board, essential to understanding artificial additives such as carrageenan. We also disagree with the majority’s recommendation to allow carrageenan in organic foods for another five years. We agree with the five NOSB members who voted against it. You may read our Comments to the National Organic Standards Board (“Issues and Education, Public Policy Statements”).

We confess the issues with carrageenan were news to us until the public comment period prompted a review. Yet an oral surgeon told us scientists have known for a long time that carrageenan can be inflammatory, as in the digestive tract, since carrageenan has been used for decades in scientific experiments specifically to induce irritation.

The initial approval for organic foods in the 1990s apparently was due to a faulty Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) review that failed to raise any of the concerns for human health and environmental damage. The concerns were documented at the time in peer-reviewed scientific studies but not mentioned in the TAP conclusion. We are dismayed by the majority NOSB vote in May because every consumer organization and every individual consumer who commented on carrageenan urged NOSB to remove carrageenan from organic foods.

Organic chicken feed?

My family shops at the West Seattle PCC several times per week. We’re very happy with it. We have a question about the organic chicken: what are the chickens fed?

I’ll confess, I’m writing with a bias. I’m concerned about the quantity and ubiquity of soy and corn in today’s diet, even if it’s organic and non-GMO. These two ingredients seem nearly inescapable, appearing in many products and in ways you’d never expect. I’d like to know so I can continue trying to make conscious, informed decisions about what we eat.
— Ben Blain

PCC replies: We have several brands of organic chicken and eggs in all stores now. The organic chickens raised by Draper Valley for the PCC Organic brand are raised on organic corn, organic soybean meal, and organic wheat. That’s fairly typical for organic chicken feed and it’s perfectly nutritious for chickens.

We also are pleased to have organic chicken raised without any corn or soy. Look for these whole birds in the freezer, bearing the Palouse Poultry Pastured Organic label. They come from Allen and Emmy Widman’s family farm in Eastern Washington. The Widmans substitute peas for corn and soy, and because their birds also are pastured across grassy fields with moving chicken tractors, their diet may include grubs, worms and insects. Their pastured eggs sold under the “Emmy’s Eggs” label are at Issaquah. Pastured, organic eggs from Misty Meadows farm are at various other stores.

Several other PCC meats also are corn- and soy-free, including our Umpqua Valley Lamb, PCC’s grass-fed beef, Eel River organic grass-fed beef, and the Pure Country Pork.

You’re right, however, that corn and soy are ubiquitous in livestock and farmed fish feed and also as derivative ingredients in many processed foods, from maltodextrin and modified food starch to protein isolate and vegetable protein.

Pthalates in supplements

I have been a PCC member for 20 years. I have eaten organically for 40 years. While I do many things to help myself, I am troubled to find that I seem not to be able to escape serious exposure to dangerous toxins all around me. So far, I have been able to maintain good health. However, I wonder how toxins will influence my health as I age.

I have used dietary supplements for more than 30 years and have had great success using them. However, I recently came across information that some supplements may have an outer coating of phthalates. Phthalates, also known as plasticizers, have been linked to hormone disruption in humans.

Has PCC ever come across this problem? What can you do to assure your members that the dietary supplements sold in your stores are safe for human consumption?

See the June 11, 2012 blog for “Healthy Child Healthy World” about medications and phthalates as well as the “Natural News” article on common pills and phthalates dated January 10, 2012.
— Kate Wre

PCC replies: Phthalates are a prohibited ingredient at PCC and are not used in any vitamins we sell. They are used in some commercial vitamins to keep the logo on the pills looking good but they won’t be in our brands.

Radiation in seaweed

Is the seaweed used in some PCC deli dishes, such as the Sesame Quinoa with Edamame salad, being tested for radiation from the Fukushima disaster in Japan?
— Name withheld

PCC replies: The delis use Emerald Cove arame in the Sesame Quinoa with Edamame salad, and Sea Tangle Noodle Company mixed sea vegetables in the Marinated Kale, Seaweed and Cucumber salad. These two popular salads make up the majority of seaweed used in the deli. We also use Eden Foods hijiki for our hijiki salad, and Eden Foods nori for the sushi at our Issaquah store.

Eden has been testing its seaweed since the Fukushima meltdown in March 2011. None of Eden’s sea vegetable samples tested positive for radiation; they’re all “clean.”

The Emerald Cove and Sea Tangle brands also have been testing for radiation.

Also in this issue

News bites, September 2012

Farmers oppose GMO apples, DHA milk controversy, Cannabis farming, and more

PCC Board of Trustees report, September 2012

PCC Member Relations update, 2013 member survey plan adopted, Board meeting report

Fall Farm Jubilee

Join Jubilee Farm in Carnation, Wash., for a celebration of the new partnership with the PCC Farmland Trust and King County on Sat., Sept. 15. Also, details on the overturn of a development plan that would have opened development to 182 acres of prime farmland near Sumner.