Safety Assessment of Alcohol-Containing Mouthwashes and Oral Rinses

In addition to the acute-toxic effects, the safety assessment of alcoholcontaining mouthwashes and oral rinses should also consider the chronic-toxic effects like the carcinogenicity of alcohol. The carcinogenic property of alcohol on the oral cavity (and due to foreseeable partial swallowing on the pharynx, larynx, and esophagus) is primarily due to the ethanol-metabolite acetaldehyde that is formed locally by oral bacterial flora. Due to their purpose, mouthwashes and oral rinses stay inside the oral cavity for a relatively long time. The locally formed acetaldehyde is therefore able to affect the mucosa to a high degree. The scientists conducting a safety assessment of alcohol-containing mouthwashes and oral rinses should therefore come to the conclusion that such products are generally unsuitable for use by children up to the age of 14, and corresponding warnings must be included on labels. Use of an alcohol-containing oral product by adolescents and adults is also questionable due to the localtoxic, chronic-toxic, genotoxic and carcinogenic potential of ethanol. For precautionary public health protection reasons, the consumer should be informed about the use of ethanol in cosmetic products for oral hygiene or it should be generally abandoned.

Authors: D.W. Lachenmeier, A. Keck-Wilhelm, A. Sauermann, G. Mildau
Keywords: Alcohol, ethanol, acetaldehyde, mouthwash, oral rinse, carcinogenicity, safety assessment

Article from Edition 10-2008

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