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The research team, from Georgetown University, said that the ingredients found in whiteners - including white carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide - caused inflammation and mucosal trauma at high concentrations, even though they are not thought to be carcinogens. But it was the interactions of the inflammations that had an unpredictable effect on tissues, the researchers observed.
The researchers stressed that their supposition is based on just two case studies, and one study that involved fewer than 20 people.
They presented their research this year at the International Conference on Head and Neck Cancer in Washington DC.