Illegally high levels of hydrogen peroxide have been found in many DIY tooth-whitening kits, following tests by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI).
Levels of the bleaching agent were higher than the legal limit in 18 of the 20 products tested, some of which cost as little as £14. In one case the legal limit was exceeded by a factor of 230 times.
Ron Gainsford, TSI chief executive, said: ‘We strongly recommend that anyone considering having their teeth whitened cosmetically should consult a qualified dentist.
‘However, I must stress that our tests were carried out on teeth whitening kits – and we are not suggesting there is a problem with the whitening toothpastes or polishes that are also on the market.’
Officers from the Central England Trading Standards found that only two products complied with the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations, which ban the sale or use of teeth whitening products that contain more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide.
These two were Boots Expert Teeth Whitening Programme and the ‘Brilliant’ tooth whitening system, distributed in the UK by Brilliant Products, of Staines, Middlesex.
Another 14 products contained amounts of hydrogen peroxide ranging from 0.24% to 23.8%. In addition, Hertfordshire Trading Standards sampled four products, and found all contained higher than 0.1%.
Manufacturers and suppliers of all the items that did not comply with the limit are now being contacted and advised to withdraw the products from sale. Investigations are still going on with a view to possible further action.
A British Dental Association spokesperson said: ‘It is important any patient considering having their teeth whitened consults their dentist, who will examine their mouth properly, take a full medical history and discuss treatment options.’
The BDA, through the European Council of Dentists, is currently in discussions to amend the EU Cosmetics Directive that will define the strength of products available to the public, and remove restrictions on qualified dental practitioners using products of a higher strength.