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Is Your Toilet Paper Toxic?

Shocking list of chemicals found in toilet paper

Toilet paper is a staple in most households with many people hoarding packets of it in case it becomes scarce again.

But, would you use it if you knew it contained cancer-causing chemicals that may trigger skin irritations, infections and haemorrhoids?

Discover the shocking toxins in toilet paper, why you shouldn’t use it and what you can use instead.

Cocktail of chemicals in toilet paper

Most toilet papers contain an array of toxic chemicals that are incredibly harmful for your health. The whiter, fluffier and more scented your toilet paper is, the more chemicals it’s likely to contain.

Here is the cocktail of chemicals most commercial toilet papers contain:

Chlorine is used to bleach the paper so that it appears a bright white colour. Chlorine can cause skin irritation, particularly around the vulva (a highly porous and vascular area), and could increase a female’s risk of infection. Women with recurrent yeast infections may be reacting to the chemicals in their toilet paper.[1]

Furans and Dioxins – these highly toxic chemicals are a by-product of the chlorine bleaching process. When you’re exposed to these chemicals in large enough amounts, they can cause liver problems, chronic cystic acne, increased fat in the blood, reproductive issues and cancer.[2] [3]

Formaldehyde is used to strengthen the paper when wet to prevent it breaking down. It is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing) and has also shown to cause skin irritation/ rashes, lung complications (shortness of breath, asthma symptoms, wheezing) and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.[4] [5] [6]

Petroleum-based mineral oils and paraffin are added to toilet roll to make them softer and smell nice. When you see a scented toilet roll or packaging that claims to be “infused with lotion” or contain aloe vera or vitamin E, it’s made with mineral oils. Petroleum-based mineral oils are carcinogenic and can cause skin irritation, acne, rashes or a burning feeling.[7]

Fragrances – scented toilet paper contains chemically-derived fragrances or perfumes. A single fragrance contains thousands of different chemicals that may be harmful to your health. These chemicals can disrupt the natural pH of the vagina and also irritate the sensitive skin around the anus and vagina, leading to redness, itchiness and burning.[8] Learn more about the dangers of fragrances.

BPA (bisphenol A) has been detected in recycled toilet paper. BPA is a toxic chemical that is used as a heat-resistant coating on thermal printed materials such as till receipts, shipping labels, flyers, luggage tags, food cartons and boarding passes. When these paper products are recycled into new products (like recycled toilet paper), the BPA remains present. BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical that is to reproductive, neurological, immune and cardiovascular problems. Learn more about hormone-disrupting chemicals.

All of the above chemicals can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, potentially causing havoc in the body. The skin around the vagina and anal area are highly sensitive, and the anus absorbs toxins more readily – this is why medications are administered rectally. 

PFAS – Another toxin to avoid

In a recent report carried out by Mamavation, 17 well-known toilet paper brands were tested to determine which ones contained a dangerous group of manufactured chemicals called PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances). These chemicals are considered “forever chemicals” – once they enter the body or the environment (through the air, soil or water supply), they stay present for decades as they’re unable to break down. PFAS exposure is associated with cancer, asthma, thyroid disease, liver damage and fertility issues.[12]

PFAS are used in cookware and packaging (to prevent food sticking), carpets and clothes (to make them stain-resistant), and various industrial manufacturing such as electronics and automotive due to their strong chemical structure. According to EWG (Environmental Working Group), 99% of Americans have PFAS in their bloodstream.[13]

Out of the 17 brands tested, four had fluorine levels ranging from 10 parts per million (ppm) to 35 ppm. Fluorine is a strong indicator of PFAS. It is likely that these chemicals were added accidently through the manufacturing process, rather than intentionally. The four brands detected were Charmin Ultra Soft Toilet Paper, Seventh Generation 100% Recycled Bath Tissue, Tushy Bamboo Toilet Paper and Who Gives a Crap Bamboo Toilet Paper.

What is the alternative to toilet paper?

Bidets – Most Hygienic

Bidets are basins that are designed to be sat on to wash yourself after going to the toilet. You sit on the basin (like you would a toilet) and turn on the bidet tap, allowing the stream of water to rinse away urine or faecal matter. Bidets have been around since the 1700s and are commonly used in Europe, South America and Asia. Using a bidet is much more hygienic than using toilet roll and is gentler on your skin, preventing irritation, haemorrhoids and infections. Use a normal towel or a bamboo towel/cloth to dry yourself afterwards.

Bidet Toilet Seat Attachments – Affordable & Effective

If you don’t have the room or budget to install a free-standing bidet, a bidet toilet seat attachment is a good alternative. They are DIY attachments you fit on to your toilet seat to achieve the same water spray action as a bidet. With adjustable controls, you can regulate the pressure and temperature of the water.

Handheld Bidet Sprayer – Easy to Install

Another alternative is to connect a handheld bidet sprayer (like a hose with a nozzle) to your toilet. They are easy to install and fit, and are placed on a hook or holder next to the toilet. Angle the sprayer towards the area you need to wash and squeeze the nozzle trigger to release the water spray.

100% Bamboo Toilet Roll – Chemical-Free

If bidets are not for you, 100% bamboo toilet roll is the perfect substitute for regular toilet paper as it’s unbleached and plastic-free with no BPA, dyes, inks or nasty chemicals. Bamboo paper is more sustainable as it breaks down easily and is completely biodegradable – it won’t clog up your toilet or be a burden on landfills. Using bamboo also saves trees and preserves forestry as bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet with some species growing an average of 35 inches per day. When cut down, bamboo grows back quickly and is easily replaced – unlike precious trees which takes years to grow back.

Bumboo sell a range of ethically-produced and FSC® certified (a mark of responsible forestry) 100% bamboo toilet rolls, kitchen paper and tissues. For every box purchased, Bumboo plant a new tree in collaboration with Eden Reforestation Projects to reduce the damaging effects of deforestation.

Reusable Wipes/ Cloths – Sustainable Option

Reusable organic cotton wipes or cloths are a safer and more sustainable alternative to ordinary toilet roll. You will need to keep a separate bin next to your toilet for used wipes/cloths and then soak and wash them with sanitiser (or essential oils) at the end of the day.

Ensure you use filtered water

When using a bidet, bidet toilet seat or handheld bidet sprayer, you should use filtered water as regular tap water contains LOTS of toxins and contaminants including chlorine, heavy metals (lead, mercury, copper), herbicides, pesticides and chemicals like VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Washing yourself with un-pure water may have a negative effect on your health. Having a whole house filtered water system is the best approach to ensure you have clean water for drinking, washing fruits and vegetables, cleaning your clothes, showering/bathing and your bidet. Furthermore, using filtered water can extend the life of your bidet seat and bidet sprayer (nozzle, hose etc) as the build-up of contaminants in water can erode these attachments over time. Some bidet seats come with a separate filter.

Small changes make a big difference

When it comes to your health, small changes can make a big difference. Minimising your exposure to toxins and unnecessary chemicals reduces your risk for disease or health complications in the future. One way to do this is to swap your bleached, chemical-laden toilet roll for a bidet, reusable cloths or 100% bamboo paper.

To learn more about environmental toxins, detoxication and ways to support your health naturally, take a look at the following short courses and resources:

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Blog/Article content reflects the author's research and diverse opinions, not necessarily CNM's views. Items may not be regularly updated, so represent the best available understanding at the time of publication.

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