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LGA - New warning about dangerous DIY teeth whitening kits

Dangerous DIY teeth whitening kits containing bleaching agents that massively exceed the maximum legal levels are putting people's health at risk, councils are warning.

Professional dentists are the only people legally allowed to perform teeth whitening services, but the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says that access to teeth whitening kits is fuelling a worrying number of unqualified staff to carry out the treatment, including at beauty salons, with some using banned products in the procedure.

High level bleaching gels can cause mouth infections, blistering and burns to gums, damage to nerves and tooth enamel, and gum-shrinking.

The LGA is calling for tougher penalties on those selling dangerous kits and on unqualified teeth whitening practitioners, and for government to raise consumer awareness of the dangers of both illegal operators performing the treatment and home-based kits with dangerous amounts of bleach.

One council alone has seized more than 15,000 dangerous teeth whitening kits - bound for shops, salons and homes - in nine months. Some of the kits contained more than 33 per cent hydrogen peroxide. The maximum legal limit for use by the public in the UK is 0.1 per cent, or 6 per cent for dentists and other registered practitioners.

Last month saw four illegal practitioners prosecuted for carrying out or advertising teeth whitening services and seizures of dangerous products have included hauls containing thousands of items worth more than £500,000.

Some of those prosecuted were unaware they were breaking the law – including a former NHS nurse who advertised teeth whitening services on Facebook, wrongly believing that completing a course certified him to practice.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

"People need to be made more aware of the laws and dangers on teeth whitening, with rogue practitioners given tougher sentences and larger fines.

"Illegal DIY teeth whitening kits may promise fast results and a brighter smile but those containing dangerous levels of hydrogen peroxide are the equivalent of brushing with bleach and can put oral health at risk.

"Trading standards are determined to remove any DIY teeth whitening kits with dangerous levels of hydrogen peroxide from the market and will always seek to prosecute those involved in making and selling them. These whitening kits are enabling unlicensed practitioners, including some beauty salons, to cash in on the treatment, and some are using illegal gels. Anyone considering having their teeth whitened should only have it done by a dentist or another regulated dental professional."

People considering teeth whitening are urged to check their dentist is registered by visiting the General Dental Council's website page at www.gdc-uk.org

Case studies:

Warwickshire County Council seized 15,398 dangerous teeth whitening products between May 2015 and February 2016 worth an estimated £100,000 in a joint operation involving trading standards officers based in Coventry's Parcelforce International Hub and the UK Border Force.

https://news.warwickshire.gov.uk/blog/2016/02/10/like-brushing-your-teeth-with-bleach-over-15-000-dangerous-teeth-whitening-products-seized-by-warwickshire-trading-standards/

Hillingdon Council officers seized dangerous teeth whitening kits and secured a court order for the forfeiture and destruction of more than 12,000 items worth more than £500,000. The tooth whitening products contained 5.9 per cent hydrogen peroxide. Trading Standards officers uncovered evidence that the goods were being supplied online to consumers with inadequate checks being made.

www.hillingdon.gov.uk/article/29595/Council-seizes-dangerous-teeth-whitening-kits

In October 2015, a woman lost her two front teeth after a botched whitening treatment by an unlicensed beautician. The 43-year-old, from Lancaster, now has to wear false teeth after her gums were so weakened by peroxide that her dentist had to pull out the damaged ones. The beautician received a 12-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £250 compensation plus prosecution costs of £1,468.

www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mum-two-loses-two-front-6655635

A man who sold teeth whitening products with peroxide levels up to 100 times the legal limit was jailed for 16 months after being prosecuted by Essex Trading Standards for misleading consumers and for a string of breaches of the Cosmetic Product Regulations 2008 Act: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-20327374

Trading Standards officers in Essex found clinics using toxic chemicals in teeth whitening products with 200 times the legal level of bleach: www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/teeth-whitening-scandal-dental-clinics-5749271

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