Natural Elements of Clay - Lead

Written by shannon drake


Posted on March 09 2020

We are all trying to lead happy & healthy lives, but finding the products to help us can sometimes be complicated and overwhelming. There's so much information out there, and it can be contradictory and confusing.

When it comes to oral care, there's a lot to consider. Reducing fluoride, avoiding plastic and heavy metals, weird and unpronounceable ingredients!

We started the Dirt Personal Care because we wanted something that cleaned our mouth without messying our body, and that's why we use all natural ingredients and essential oils without any weird chemicals.

Something that we get asked a lot about is lead; is it in our products? Is it going to harm you? Is it something to worry about? Let's dig in! 

Bentonite Clay (Montmorillonite type clay) is a natural ingredient mined from the earth. Clay contains many compounds and naturally occurring elements including lead. This has caused many people to become concerned - we all know how lead in paint is bad, and so people ask is lead in bentonite clay bad as well? We believe that clay is good for you, safe and removes toxins from your body.  Even though the lead in clay is a trace element, meaning it is found in the parts per million or per billion, we want you to make the right decision for your family, so below we've collected the numerous studies we've reviewed when making the decision to use it in our products. 

FDA Classifies Bentonite as GRAS, "Generally Regarded as Safe"

Bentonite clays have been used to clarify beverages for decades. It is tested and approved by the FDA as food processing ingredient.

But the CDC says no about of lead is safe.

Although Lead naturally occurs in many soils and foods the CDC says any amount of lead is alarming.

Bentonite Clay has been used in farm feed to reduce lead in animals.

In one of the longest term real use case studies, bentonite clay was added to pig feed for 100 days. When tested bentonite clay was shown to significantly reduce the amount of lead found in the pigs blood and tissue.


Palygorskite (a type of bentonite) clay was fed to chickens for 42 days. Findings showed that supplementation of bentonite significantly decreased lead accumulation in chicken meat.

Bentonite clay has been consumed by humans for medicinal purposes for millennia.

This practice is called Geophagy is found cross culturally. In south America many clays including bentonite has been consumed for health and detoxification. In modern south America one can still find compressed cakes of clay for sale in pharmacies to help with stomach upset and a myriad of other ailments. In Africa clay is sold either raw or smoked as a medicinal aid.

Parrots in South America seek out bentonite deposits and consume clay to detox from poisonous chemicals in fruit seeds. Elephants also Ingest clay as a detox.

In animal safety tests scientists have not found significant adverse effects.

When fed to rats at 2% of total diet for 28 weeks it showed no overt toxicity. 2% of a diet is an incredibly high amount this would be as if a human ate 2 ounces of clay each and every day.

The FDA has shown that rats fed a diet of 12% Bentonite clay showed no adverse effects. 12% of a diet is a very large and unnatural amount of clay to consume. This would be as if a human ate over half a pound of clay each and every day.

Fish were intentionally exposed to lead and were then fed bentonite clay for 60 days. It was found that lead levels were reduced in the blood and kidneys of the fish fed bentonite clay versus placebo.

In non-animal  simulated digestion tests there is conflicting results about the bio-availability of heavy metals in clay.

In human simulated digestion experiments, bentonite clay has not been shown to have elevated levels of lead absorption.

In other simulated digestion studies absorption rates were found swinging wildly between 1-96% With the majority of tests showing less than 50% bio-availability.

In human consumption tests, no adverse effects have been found from the eating of bentonite clay.

Ingesting 50 grams of clay found not to expose humans to elevated lead. 50 grams is equal to eating an entire jar of our largest bottle of toothpowder.

Adolescents in Ghana were given 1.5 grams of bentonite clay internally for 14 days. No difference of heavy metal levels was shown between treated group and placebo. 1.5 grams is nearly 100x more amount of bentonite clay then we recommend to use.

The FDA itself approves a dose of 250mg to 1000mg of bentonite clay for use in treating diarrhea. In 1961 the FDA ran tests that showed bentonite clay to be effective in removing viral, allergic, and toxic sources of diaherra, reflecting it's ability to attract positively charged atoms into it's structure and expel it from the body.

In ecological studies Bentonite is shown to lower lead levels.

Bentonite clay has been used to purify water and lowers lead concentration in water. 
There has never been any documented cases of lead poisoning from clay ingestion. 

Bentonite clay has many proven health benefits

It has been shown to absorb toxins and contaminants through cation exchange (the ability to attract negatively charged atoms)

It can provide essential tooth friendly nutrients like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

It also chelates other elements when they are in over abundance such as copper, cadmium and lead

Some facts to consider when judging bentonite clay in toothpaste.

  • Every clinical test is made with the assumption that you will be eating large quantities of clay, yet still do not show health risk and many animal tests show benefits.
  • The amount of clay you are exposed to through toothpaste use is much much smaller than what is used in the studies above.
  • Toothpaste is not swallowed, further reducing your exposure to the elements in clay. Although we feel our paste is safe to swallow we do not recommend swallowing it intentionally because it will have plaque, bacteria, tartar and other non-beneficial elements in it after you use it to brush. 

In conclusion

We and all of our families use Dirt products and believe them to be incredibly beneficial and safe. Many dentists, hygienists and customers agree but you are the only one who can choose what is right for you and your family. While there are no direct studies on the effects of clay toothpaste and lead absorption, use the knowledge you've gained from this article to make the decision that is right for you.

Our conclusion, after reviewing the evidence, is that Bentonite clay has numerous health benefits and contributes to healthy immune function and detoxification. We see the detoxifying aspects of Bentonite Clay as a value added bonus and is why we use it in all of our products!

Photo by Karen Maeson Unsplash