Electric toothbrush 'horrifying' for planet and bamboo not much better

Bamboo toothbrushes are not the most sustainable to planet

Gabija Gataveckaite

New research has found that electric toothbrushes are the least environmentally friendly to the planet when compared with other toothbrushes.

The Trinity College Dublin study also shows that bamboo toothbrushes are not the most sustainable to the planet - rather, continually recycled plastic toothbrushes are.

The study compared different kinds of toothbrushes to determine the effects they had on the planet in terms of their manufacture and compared the electric toothbrush, the standard plastic brush, the plastic brush with replaceable head, and the bamboo brush.

Speaking to the Herald, Associate Professor in Public Dental Health Dr Brett Duane in TCD, who conducted the study, said that electric toothbrushes are "fairly horrifying" for the environment.

"We found that electric toothbrushes are fairly horrifying in how harmful they are to both people's health and the planet."

By looking at human health related to environmental damage, it found that 10 hours were taken off the lives of people who helped to manufacture the toothbrush.

"Disability-adjusted life years (DALYS) is a calculation of disability-associated life years, so basically how much harm does it cause people's health," Dr Duane explained.

"The electric toothbrush is quite damning in how much damage it caused people's health. The people that produce the electric toothbrush for you, the people that are involved in the manufacture and transport of that toothbrush, they lose those hours.


"For every electric toothbrush we take, we buy and use, we take 10 hours of life off them.

"We do need to think about it, how much harm you are doing to other people who are making your toothbrush.

"The guy or girl who's making your toothbrush on the other side of Europe or on the other side of the world, you're causing them to have planetary-associated loss of life because you've chosen to buy an electric toothbrush," he explained.

Dr Duane said that other studies also show that while some studies suggest electric toothbrushes are more efficient at removing dental plaque, they aren't vastly different to a regular toothbrush.

"There is also not that much evidence that an electric toothbrush is that much better for your health.

"There is some evidence to show that it can remove plaque a little bit better than other toothbrushes.

"But they can't say for sure in any way or form that it causes better public health," he added.

However, bamboo brushes are not the answer.

This is because if everybody switched to using bamboo brushes, a lot of land and water would be required to grow large supplies of bamboo.

"If we could just use plastic toothbrush and recycle it, it gets melted down, uses a little bit of solar energy and produces new toothbrushes and continues on and on without having to use too much plastic."

He explained that this way, the plastic stays in circulation and in use.

"Plastic is really only bad if it leaves the recycling system and enters the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean."

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