A recent post on the Nutrition and Physical Regeneration blog caused me to wonder about the safety of water fluoridation. Is it really necessary or safe?
NO! I read this article (also cited at the bottom of the blog post you mention), a few years back, it was the one piece of reading that finally convinced me to avoid fluoridated water at all costs, I will now never give fluoride toothpaste to my children or use it myself, it is also interesting to note that fluoride is present in mechanically deboned meat, which I also avoid:
Fluoride has been shown to be mutagenic, cause chromosome damage and interfere with the enzymes involved with DNA repair in a variety of cell and tissue studies (Tsutsui 1984; Caspary 1987; Kishi 1993 and Mihashi 1996). Recent studies have also found a correlation between fluoride exposure and chromosome damage in humans (Sheth 1994; Wu 1995; Meng 1997 and Joseph 2000).
Animal experiments show that fluoride accumulates in the brain and exposure alters mental behavior in a manner consistent with a neurotoxic agent (Mullenix 1995). Rats dosed prenatally demonstrated hyperactive behavior. Those dosed postnatally demonstrated hypoactivity (i.e. under activity or "couch potato" syndrome). More recent animal experiments have reported that fluoride can damage the brain (Wang 1997; Guan 1998; Varner 1998; Zhao 1998; Zhang 1999; Lu 2000; Shao 2000; Sun 2000; Bhatnagar 2002; Chen 2002, 2003; Long 2002; Shivarajashankara 2002a, b; Shashi 2003 and Zhai 2003) and impact learning and behavior (Paul 1998; Zhang 1999, 2001; Sun 2000; Ekambaram 2001; Bhatnagar 2002).
Five studies from China show a lowering of IQ in children associated with fluoride exposure (Lin Fa-Fu 1991; Li 1995; Zhao 1996; Lu 2000; and Xiang 2003a, b). One of these studies (Lin Fa-Fu 1991) indicates that even just moderate levels of fluoride exposure (e.g. 0.9 ppm in the water) can exacerbate the neurological defects of iodine deficiency.
The only government-sanctioned animal study to investigate if fluoride causes cancer, found a dose-dependent increase in cancer in the target organ (bone) of the fluoride-treated (male) rats (NTP 1990). The initial review of this study also reported an increase in liver and oral cancers, however, all non-bone cancers were later downgraded – with a questionable rationale - by a government-review panel (Marcus 1990). In light of the importance of this study, EPA Professional Headquarters Union has requested that Congress establish an independent review to examine the study's results (Hirzy 2000).
Once fluoride is put in the water it is impossible to control the dose each individual receives. This is because 1) some people (e.g. manual laborers, athletes, diabetics, and people with kidney disease) drink more water than others, and 2) we receive fluoride from sources other than the water supply. Other sources of fluoride include food and beverages processed with fluoridated water (Kiritsy 1996 and Heilman 1999), fluoridated dental products (Bentley 1999 and Levy 1999), mechanically deboned meat (Fein 2001), teas (Levy 1999), and pesticide residues on food (Stannard 1991 and Burgstahler 1997).
The early studies conducted in 1945 -1955 in the US, which helped to launch fluoridation, have been heavily criticized for their poor methodology and poor choice of control communities (De Stefano 1954; Sutton 1959, 1960 and 1996; Ziegelbecker 1970). According to Dr. Hubert Arnold, a statistician from the University of California at Davis, the early fluoridation trials "are especially rich in fallacies, improper design, invalid use of statistical methods, omissions of contrary data, and just plain muddleheadedness and hebetude." In 2000, the British Government’s “York Review” could give a no fluoridation trial a grade A classification – despite 50 years of research (McDonagh 2000, see Appendix 3 for commentary).
As the parent of a child who died from osteosarcoma (bone cancer) I was horrified to find out the background of fluoride. It has been shown in scientific research for quite a long time that fluoride causes or contributes to this deadly disease. Chris Bryson's book "The Fluoride Deception" carefully shows how and why water fluoridation was and is promoted. Europe stopped the practice over a decade ago because of the harm to health. I wrote a book about our experiences titled "How to Survive (and Thrive) In a Toxic World by Jeannette Russell hoping to help other parents avoid our tragedy. It is available on Amazon.
Water fluoridation is an illogical concept: it is to help with tooth decay, yet we are swallowing it! Fluoridated toothpaste has already solved the issue of applying fluoride to the teeth without the need to ingest it.
There is no known nutritional requirement for flouride. If you are eating paleo, there is little point in fluoridating your teeth.
But the question still remains: is fluoridated water harmful to health?
One thing to consider for health issues is: what does Europe do? Europe generally takes a precautionary approach to health- things are supposed to be proven save. They also aren't as biased as the U.S. on this issue. Our government has been championing fluoridation and CDC lists water fluoridation as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the last century. This means that just like the "saturated fat is evil" dogma, fluoridation is now something that has to be defended, regardless of the reality of the science. Water fluoridation is almost non-existent in Europe.
The most common form of fluoride placed in our water is a toxic industrial waste product (they have found a cheaper way to get rid of it now!), not the same as the forms found naturally in water.
We do know that fluoride is highly reactive, and one direct effect is that it can make bones more brittle. It also competes with iodine, creating thyroid issues. Ironically it actually damages the teeth of children (fluorosis). Everything we know about it tells us it is a toxin to our body. Our body is more than capable of handling small amounts of toxins, but we are probably all overloaded now.
The only question that I think remains is: how bad is it? Maybe not that much. Maybe some people are very sensitive. Fluoride is something we should work to eliminate from the water supply (your are being taxed for this privilege), and something that for optimal health we should avoid. You may have higher priorities, especially considering the cost and hassle of filtering fluoride.
To the anti-libertarians, with respect:
I'm always curious when I read someone's opinion that seems to be coming from a place of concern, yet ends with forcing others to participate and/or fund initiatives they feel are worthy.
I am reminded of Auberon Herbert's quote: "By what right do men exercise power over each other?"
And the argument that we got here somehow ("the world we inhabit") doesn't hold water - doing something immoral until it is habit does not make it charity.
Zev, just because you think there's a place for "science-based public health policies" [sic], by what right do you presume to force measures on others? I don't know you personally, but I think it would be safe to assume you wouldn't directly force your neighbor into participating in such a scheme, or funding it. But using a third party enforcer, government, is somehow okay? How?
Also, I'd be happy to consider evidence of the overwhelming success of fluoridation. I would think that bar would have to be pretty high to justify medicating entire populations. For some science on it, here is another article, by Donald Miller, Jr., MD. There are good references at the end of his article.
In my opinion after reading articles such as the above, I don't think flouride should be added to water supplies. There is no freedom of choice when that is done.
Anyone who wishes to use flouride can have it applied topically at the dentist. Anyone who doesn't want to have it shouldn't have to drink it unwillingly.
I regard the fluoridated water concern as very much on the fringes of health and nutrition debates, lying somewhere between "wifi allergies" and homeopathy.
Pardon my knee-jerk, civilian take on it. I acknowledge the quantity of references provided in Louisa's answer, and I concede my inability to gauge their quality with anything approaching expertise.
However, my general impression is that the animal studies use megadoses of fluoride that would never take place in human populations. Furthermore, fluoride is naturally present in groundwater in many places around the world; this lends itself to speculation, at least, that some of our paleolithic ancestors consumed it without catastrophe--unless someone has dug up caveman bones with skeletal fluorosis?
Finally, my intuitive scoffing at this issue is based on the paranoid nature of many of the websites that scream about it: Their cherry-picking of facts and the general tone is not unlike 9/11 Truth, Obama "Birthers", FEMA camps: "Our government is poisoning us," etc.
Zev: I tend to agree but I would like the option of non-fluoridated tap water which is all I drink, after running it through a Brita filter which does not remove it. I'd have to install an expensive reverse-osmosis system or something, and as mentioned above it should be an opt-in thing: if you really think you need it, have the dentist apply a topical treatment, or use fluoridated toothpaste.
I had always been a skeptic when it came to the dangers of water fluoridation. Seemed like it could have been a bunch of fear mongering, as more often than not the Nazis were brought up during a discussion of the subject.
That all changed this week. I was having to drink more and more water recently, to the point where it seemed like I was always thirsty. As a result, I was having to make a trip to the bathroom about every hour. The endless thirst was really starting to get old.
I did a little research and decided to try some distilled water. Night and day. I've normally refilled my 12 oz glass of water about 3 or 4 times by now. I've yet to refill it. I had gained a some weight recently and was having trouble shedding this as a result of hunger cravings that really made no sense knowing what I know about physiology (thanks to you good people) and what I was eating. Cravings gone.
Here is a link to a tragic video about fluoride-poisoned horses: