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Peri-dent Update 2005-12-21

The article entitled ‘HIV from Dental floss? published on Friday 16th December attracted widespread interest. Notable was the support that Edward Frost received from fellow past employees who endorse Edward’s allegations – of immediate factory concern must be the apparent high incidence of miscarriages amongst the female staff. Currently various public bodies are considering what remedial action needs to be taken. Some readers have suggested that the dental floss presently in our shops should be checked to determine if the floss is hygienically safe to use.

Below is a copy of Edward Frost’s complaint to the Health and Safety – such was copied to Jordan, Peri-dent’s owners in Norway – who as yet have not responded.

Health and Safety

Complaint about Peri-dent:
Dental Floss manufacturer at Galashiels, Scotland

Dear Sir,

Between July 16 2003 and December 14 2005, I worked for Peri-dent (a dental floss manufacturer based at Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders). I witnessed on many occasions unsuitable hygienic manufacture for an oral product. Do hygiene regulations apply to dental floss?

In the winding department at Peri-dent, it is considered normal procedure for cones of dental floss to roll about the dirty floor upon which people stand in outside footwear. Upon management instructions, only visible dirt is wiped away before the cones are used – such allows dog excrement brought by footwear into the workplace to come in to contact with a product that goes in ones mouth with all the associated health implications. This happens because the winding machines (old textile machines) are not designed for dental floss. The problem is that there is no way of securing the cone to the machine effectively. The result being that cones are pulled off the machine and end up rolling along the floor usually on the rubber mats where the operator stands. Although this does not happen with every cone I would guess about 1 in 3 it does occur (when a cone does this – it is because the tension on the cone is greater than the grip of the holder – such largely relies on gravity – normally if a cone pulls off once it likely it will do it again). Approximately one third of yarn running on the winding machines has come in to contact with the floor. Note: the floor is not mopped often – on some occasion’s weeks go by between mopping and even then no powerful cleaning products are used as would be found in a restaurant or hospital situation.

In my opinion basic hygiene is largely ignored at Peri-dent.

Machine care of the dental floss machine: When I started at Peri-dent, clothes and paper towels were used but later (for the purpose of cost cutting) old clothe rags were used to clean the machine lines (the parts that the dental floss would run along) --these rags included used underpants. In my opinion basic hygiene is largely ignored at Peri-dent.

The on/off boiler suit. When a customer of Peri-dent visits it is standard practice to dress up in hygienic paper boiler suit. The pretence is that we wear a new hygienic boiler suit ever day. When I started in 2003 it was the case that boiler suits were only worn when a visit was expected –otherwise we use our normal out door wear. Just before I left Peri-dent management instructed us to save one paper boiler suit to wear on all visits instead of a new boiler suit being worn for the visit occasion. I believe the customer is led to believe that hygienic boiler suits are always worn.

Whether a hygienic boiler suit is necessary or not in the manufacture of dental floss I do not know -- but pretending to wear these boiler suits when customers were known to be visiting suggests to me that I was called upon to participate on a fraud on our customer.

Improper ventilation. The reason management told us that these suits were not worn all the time was that it is too hot to work in them (personally I believe cost also to be a factor).  The reason it is too hot is that there is poor air circulation at Peri-dent and the machines give off heat. There is a fume or smell problem. Particularly worrying -- though most likely an anomaly is the number of women workers who have had miscarriages in relation to the national average -- I think this alone would merit further investigation of the work practices in terns of air circulation and the chemicals used.

Other hygiene concerns. Although I know little about this but if the same approach to worker health and safety is applied as to the hygiene of the product Peri-dent makes then there is all likely hood of negligence in other areas.

Repetitive strain injury. There have been many cases of repetitive strain injury at Peri-dent with work practices that do not include any rotation of jobs. People do the same repetitive job for years – which leads to long term health problems.

Yours faithfully

Edward Frost