Open Letter To President Of Colgate-Palmolive

By Richard Altschuler

Dear President:

I am writing to you as a consumer who still has a few teeth left in his mouth, lots of "hard stuff" between the gums and teeth (my dentist just told me), and bad breath on occasion (don't ask!). I am seriously considering using your product, Colgate Toothpaste, but after looking at the many boxes on the shelves of my local Duane Reade for nearly an hour, and taking detailed notes, I am somewhat confused about which "version" of Colgate to buy. I also have some questions I'd like you to answer, based on what I read on your boxes, so that I may decide whether to become a loyal Colgate user or consider some sort of action against you and your company on behalf of all brain-functioning consumers who use or have ever used your successful product.


1. My first question should be easy for you to answer, but it is important to me since I am about to adopt a seven-year-old child tomorrow. On all of your many types of boxes there is a TOOTHPASTE WARNING. It says to keep Colgate out of reach of children six years of age or younger, because if the child swallows at least the amount of toothpaste needed for brushing, the adult should contact a Poison Control Center immediately. My question is, will a seven-year-old also possibly die from swallowing too much Colgate, or is the cut-off point really six-years-old? As a concerned parent-to-be, I of course want to protect my impending arrival from harm while giving him good home dental care. Also, related to this question, I'd like to ask (just out of curiosity, of course), how did you determine that six years is the cutoff point? Was that the result of a scientific study (or did you yourself suffer a personal tragedy)? One final question about this issue: I have a grandfather who has Alzheimer's Disease, and I am petrified that he is going to suck down a whole tube of Colgate one day. Will that kill him, or make him deathly ill? Are senior citizens immune to the possible lethal effects of your toothpaste, or is it safe to eat it after a certain age? Does it matter whether a person ingests Colgate TOTAL or REGULAR toothpaste?

2. You market two lines of toothpaste: the TOTAL line and the REGULAR line (for lack of a better term). Each line comes in many variants: gel or paste, with or without "whitener," having or not having "tartar control," and so on (Oh, it can make your head swim!) It seems there would be a great difference between all these choices, yet every box has one common active ingredient: Fluoride ("anti-cavity"). In addition, your TOTAL line lists another active ingredient: Triclosan ("anti-gingivitis"). So why can't we just swish around some fluoride instead of buying your product? And do adults need anti-cavity protection, anyhow? Why don't all your product variants have Triclosan, since most adults' gums are rotting in their mouths? Or is Triclosan only for the hoity-toity?

3. I noticed that on some of your boxes the fluoride ingredient is called Sodium Fluoride and on other boxes it is called Sodium Monofluorophosphate. I also noticed that sometimes you don't give a number next to the fluoride listing and other times you do give a number, like (.024%, 0.14% W/V Fluoride Ion), or (0.76%, with 0.15% W/V fluoride ion). Why does the variation in listing exist? Are you hiding something on some of your boxes? Perhaps you've cut back a bit in some of your production units and don't want to tell us. Or is it a typo? Please explain.

4. One of your TOTAL variants says "TOTAL PLUS WHITENING." It claims to have a "breakthrough cleaning ingredient" to whiten teeth by gently removing surface stains. I read this box very closely, and it had the same two active ingredients and the same slew of inactive ingredients as the other TOTAL variants, except for two inactive ingredients: mica and FD&C blue no. 1. Is either or both of them responsible for the "whitening" effect? One or both would have to be, it would seem (unless the other TOTAL variants also "whiten," but you're just not telling us). Which is it? A related question is, since mica and FD&C blue no. 1 are both inactive ingredients, what is it that produces their whitening action? Does "inactive" have a special meaning in the toothpaste industry I may not be aware of? Please clarify.

5. A very closely related question to that above involves TOTAL FRESH STRIPE: I notice that it makes all the same claims on the box as generic TOTAL, including no claim about "whitening" - yet it has same active and inactive ingredients as the "PLUS WHITENING" box - and it even has an additional inactive ingredient: D&C Yellow no.10. Is this inactive ingredient responsible for the fresh stripe? And if this variant has all the same ingredients as the PLUS WHITENING box, how come this box does not say PLUS WHITENING? Please clarify.

6. One variant of your General line promises TARTAR CONTROL. What is that, and what produces it, since this line only lists fluoride as the active ingredient? Is the tartar control produced by an inactive ingredient? If so, how is that possible, from both a chemical and a philosophical point of view?

7. Your Colgate box that says TARTAR CONTROL with BAKING SODA & PEROXIDE claims that it "deep cleans teeth." Could you please explain what that means? Do the ingredients seep into the dentin, and dissolve stains?

8. Your different boxes list so many "inactive" ingredients, and some boxes leave some out while adding others. Common inactive ingredients listed are water, hydrated silica, glycerin, sorbitol, PVM/MA copolymr, sodium lauryl sulfate, cellulose gum, flavor, sodium hydroxide, propylene glycol, carrageenan, sodium saccharin, titanium dioxide, mica, FD&C blue no. 1, and D&C yellow no. 10. My question is: what do they do if they are inactive? Do they just hold the fluoride and triclosan? Do they make the "taste"you're so noted for? Is Peroxide an inactive ingredient (see question 7 above)? And by the way, what is "flavor"? Is that an ingredient?

Of course I have many other questions I could ask you about your toothpaste, but I will stop here, and anxiously await your answers to the above. I look forward to either becoming a loyal Colgate user in the near future or to launching a $200 billion dollar class action suit against you and your company.

Thank you,

Ginger "Sweetbreath" Vitis

(Alias, Richard Altschuler)

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