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10 Facts About Fluoride

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Fact #1: Most Developed Countries Do Not Fluoridate Their Water

In the United States, health authorities call fluoridation “one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.” Few other countries share this view. In fact, more people drink artificially fluoridated water in the U.S. alone than in the rest of the world combined.[1] Most advanced nations do not fluoridate their water.  In western Europe, 97% of the population has water without a single drop of fluoride added to it.[2] Fluoridation proponents will sometimes say this is because Europe adds fluoride to its salt.  Only five nations in western Europe, however, have any fluoridated salt.[3] The vast majority do not.

Fact #2: Fluoridated Countries Do Not Have Less Tooth Decay Than Non-Fluoridated Countries

It is often claimed that fluoridated water is the main reason the United States has had a large decline in tooth decay over the past 60 years. This same decline in tooth decay, however, has occurred in all developed countries, most of which have never added any fluoride to their water.[4] Today, according to data from the World Health Organization, there is no discernible difference in tooth decay between the minority of developed countries that fluoridate water, and the majority that do not.[5]

Fact #3: Fluoride Affects Many Tissues in the Body Besides the Teeth

NRC (2006)

NRC (2006)

Fluoridation advocates have long claimed that the safety of fluoridation is beyond scientific debate.[6] However, according to the well-known toxicologist, Dr. John Doull, who chaired the National Academy of Science’s review on fluoride, the safety of fluoridation remains “unsettled” and “we have much less information than we should, considering how long it has been going on.”[7] In 2006, Doull’s committee at the NAS published an exhaustive 500-page review of fluoride’s toxicity.[8] The report concludes that fluoride is an “endocrine disruptor” and can affect many things in the body, including the bones, the brain, the thyroid gland, the pineal gland, and even blood sugar levels.[9]

Far from giving fluoride a clean bill of health, the NAS called upon scientists to investigate if current fluoride exposures in the United States are contributing to chronic health problems, like bone disorders, thyroid disease, low intelligence, dementia, and diabetes, particularly in people who are most vulnerable to fluoride’s effects.[10] These recommendations highlight that—despite 60 years of fluoridation—many of the basic studies necessary for determining the program’s safety have yet to be conducted.

Fact #4: Fluoridation Is Not a “Natural” Process

fluorosilicic-acidFluoridation advocates often say that “nature thought of fluoridation first.” By this, they mean that fluoride occurs at naturally high levels in some water supplies.[11]  Lots of toxic substances, however, like arsenic, and even some medicines, like lithium, occur at naturally high levels. This doesn’t mean they’re safe.[12] Further, the level of fluoride added in artificial fluoridation programs is far higher than the level of fluoride that occurs in the vast majority of (unpolluted) fresh surface waters.[13]

Also, the main fluoride chemical (fluorosilicic acid) that is added to water is not what most people would call a naturally occurring compound. It is a corrosive acid captured in the air pollution control devices of the phosphate fertilizer industry.[14]  Fluoride is captured in air pollution control devices because fluoride gases are hazardous air pollutants that cause significant environmental harm.[15] This captured fluoride acid is the most contaminated chemical added to public water supplies,[16] and may trigger additional risks from those presented by natural fluorides. These risks include a possible cancer hazard from the acid’s elevated arsenic content, and a possible neurotoxic hazard from the acid’s ability–under some conditions–to increase the erosion of lead from old pipes.[17]

Fact #5: 40% of American teenagers show visible signs of fluoride over-exposure.

Dental Fluorosis (Photo by Dr. Jay Levy)

Dental Fluorosis (Photo by Dr. Jay Levy)

According to a recent national survey by the CDC, about 40% of American teenagers have a condition called dental fluorosis.[18] Fluorosis is a defect of tooth enamel caused by fluoride’s interference with the tooth-forming cells. The condition shows as cloudy spots and streaks and, in more severe cases, brown stains and tooth erosion.[19] In the 1950s, health officials claimed that fluorosis would only affect 10% of children in fluoridated areas.[20] This prediction has proven false. Today, not only do 40% of American teenagers have fluorosis, but, in some fluoridated areas, the rate is as high as 70 to 80%, with some children suffering advanced forms of the condition.[21]

The high rate of fluorosis in the U.S. reflects the fact that children now receive fluoride from many sources besides tap water. When fluoridation first began, there was not a single tube of toothpaste that contained fluoride. Today, over 95% of toothpastes are fluoridated. Although fluoride toothpastes carry poison warnings on them, studies show that children can swallow large amounts of fluoride when they brush, particularly when using toothpaste with bubble gum and candy flavors.[22]

And there are other sources of fluoride as well, including processed beverages/foods,[23] fluoride pesticides,[24] tea,[25] Teflon pans,[26] and some fluorinated pharmaceuticals. [27] The concern today, therefore, is not just the safety of fluoridated water by itself, but the safety of fluoridated water in combination with all the other sources to which we’re now exposed.


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