Fluoride has been added to water supplies in the United States since 1945. In the 1930s, fluoride’s health benefits were first discovered and in 1951 the National Academy of the Sciences’ National Research Council determined that fluoride contributed to a dramatic decline in tooth decay and fluoridation of the nation’s water supplies took place rapidly. Now 72% of public water systems in the United States provide fluoridated water.
However, even with such widespread fluoridation of water in the United States there have always been a significant number of people who doubt the health benefits and the safety of fluoride. These skeptics have a wealth of scientific research that raises concerns about the government and industry claims about the safety of fluoridation.
Moreover, these critics are emboldened by occasional government findings that recommend adjustments to the levels of fluoridation. Just this month, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they are recommending a reduction in the amount of fluoride in tap water. According to their research, the amount of fluoride in drinking water is contributing to increased levels of dental fluorosis in children under the age of eight. Fluorosis is a condition in which excess fluoride consumption causes banding and spotting on the teeth.
As it turns out, fluorosis is one of the primary dangers that comes from fluoride consumption. According to government data, just under a quarter of people ages 16-49 have some form of dental fluorosis. Further, fluorosis is seen in one in three children. In addition to spotting, fluorosis can lead to the decay of the enamel that protects the teeth.
One of the leading critics of fluoride-The Fluoride Action Network-has identified a number of dangers associated with adding fluoride to tap water. Citing numerous scientific studies, the organization argues that there is minimal benefit associated with fluoridation. Instead, most of the benefits that dental experts and public health officials associate with fluoride can be achieved through the topical application of fluoride (for example, in toothpaste). At the same time, ingesting fluoride introduces potential health risks as the Fluoride Action Network cites studies showing fluoride consumption linked to adverse effects on IQ levels, risk to the thyroid gland, an inability of the kidney to excrete fluoride from the body, and increased risk of rare bone cancers. Moreover, they argue that fluoridation is based on outdated medical studies and is not consistent with recent research.
There is ongoing research into the negative health consequences of fluoride and a number of recent studies have highlighted dangerous of fluoride in tap water. For example, a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that fluoride is a toxic substance that can actually destroy teeth, especially in children. Despite this 2010 study, the American Dental Association continues to support fluoridation. Another 2006 study published in The Lancet found that fluoride has the capacity to interfere with brain functioning.
Additional health risk associated with fluoride include negative effects on infants who consume fluoride. This problem is serious enough that the government has warned that mixing infant formula with fluoridated water can lead to fluorosis and that parents may want to use bottled water to limit this risk. For adults, the Centers for Disease Control has found that excess fluoride consumption can lead to skeletal fluorosis that results in bone fractures and bone pain.
In response to the health dangers associated with fluoride, many individual consumers are rejecting fluoride by purchasing bottled and/or filtered water and purchasing toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride. At the same time, a number of communities across the United States have rejected fluoridation-most recently including Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania and Sparta, North Carolina.
“10 Facts about Fluoride,” Fluoride Action Network.
“2008 Water Fluoridation Statistics”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation”, Fluoride Action Network.
Eugenio D. Beltrán-Aguilar, D.M.D., M.S., Dr.P.H.; Laurie Barker, M.S.P.H.; and Bruce A. Dye, D.D.S., M.P.H., “NCHS Data Brief: Prevalence and Severity of Dental Fluorosis in the United States, 1999-2004,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“CDC Honors 65 Years of Community Water Fluoridation,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“HHS and EPA announce new scientific assessments and actions on fluoride,” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Ethan A. Huff, “ADA study confirms dangers of fluoridated water, especially for babies,” NaturalNews.com.
Maureen Jones, “Communities which have Rejected Fluoridation Since 1990,” Fluoride Action Network.
“Overview: Infant Formula and Fluorosis,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sharon Roznik, “FdL fluoride levels are reduced after CDC warns of health risks,” Oshkosh Northwestern.
“U.S. lowers limits for fluoride in water,” Reuters.