As early as 1981, even research published by the thoroughly mainstream American Dental Association acknowledged formaldehyde as a carcinogen. Flash forward 30 years. Last week, the US government did, too.
The government issued warnings on Friday about two materials used daily by millions of Americans, saying that one causes cancer and the other might.
Government scientists listed formaldehyde as a carcinogen, and said it is found in worrisome quantities in plywood, particle board, mortuaries and hair salons. They also said that styrene, which is used in boats, bathtubs and in disposable foam plastic cups and plates, may cause cancer but is generally found in such low levels in consumer products that risks are low.
Frequent and intense exposures in manufacturing plants are far more worrisome than the intermittent contact that most consumers have, but government scientists said that consumers should still avoid contact with formaldehyde and styrene along with six other chemicals that were added Friday to the government’s official Report on Carcinogens. Its release was delayed for years because of intense lobbying from the chemical industry, which disputed its findings.
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Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, said that formaldehyde is both worrisome and inescapable. “It’s the smell in new houses, and it’s in cosmetics like nail polish,” he said. “All a reasonable person can do is manage their exposure and decrease it to as little as possible. It’s everywhere.”
In mainstream dentistry, as well – hence, the concern of those researchers writing in JADA 30 years ago.
As we’ve discussed before, formaldehyde is major ingredient in formocresol – a substance applied within a tooth during a procedure called a pulpotomy. Although more dentists are questioning its use (PDF) – and maybe even more will in light of the new classification – it’s still a common material in endodontics, the dental specialty that focuses on the tooth pulp, root and surrounding tissues.
And formaldehyde’s not just in pulpotomies, either. While most root canal teeth are filled with a substance called gutta percha, some dentists still use an a material called Sargenti paste. This, too, contains formaldehyde – specifically, the powdered form known as paraformaldehyde. Yet according to a report published by Dr. Bicuspid just last year, “thousands of dentists reportedly continue to use it, although most shy away from publicly acknowledging it.” Why don’t they acknowledge it? The FDA, ADA, AAE and dental schools all stand opposed, precisely because of Sargenti’s toxic potential. (Note: Free registration is required to view the full article.)
Here’s hoping the new classification of formaldehyde will finally put a stop to that practice.
Then again, considering how some dentists keep on putting mercury in people’s teeth despite its being recognized as a potent neurotoxin…