This issue has frequently been in the news, as it should be, because of Portland, Oregon’s recent refusal, for a fourth time in the last few decades, by a vote of 61 to 39 percent, to artificially fluoridate their drinking water. There have been a host of articles in Slate, Salon, The Atlantic Cities, and Scientific American which cite little in the way of evidence for fluoridation but always mention support from the AMA, ADA, CDC and others. These authors conveniently forget to mention these organizations’ past support for smoking, tetraethyl lead, DDT, thalidomide, asbestos and other nasty substances over the past century. They ridicule Portland’s voters for their alleged lack of common sense or willingness to “go with the flow” of modern science. Quite the contrary.
If you look at the data, it’s promoters of water fluoridation that you really have to wonder about. First off, the fluoride product added to public drinking water in the U.S. is not pharmaceutical grade. It’s a waste product of the fertilizer industry, that in addition to fluorosilicic acid also contains “trace amounts” of toxic lead, cadmium and arsenic, to their drinking water. These elements are not insignificant. In our own study in Boulder, Colorado, we found that the trace amounts of arsenic in the particular fluoride product used in the drinking water here, once diluted, would be up to 1.66 ppb: high enough to potentially lead to approximately 100 cases of bladder and lung cancer in Boulder’s population of 100,000 residents over a lifetime of consumption. (We had a trial lawyer familiar with arsenic toxicity working with us, who was able to calculate this figure). To me, that is unacceptable.
Here’s what you really need know: the University of York review, as it’s known, that everyone from the CDC to the Australian Government’s National Health Council totes as showing the benefits of water fluoridation, couldn’t reach a confident conclusion. That’s right. The authors of this study went to great pains to point out in a follow up piece that “we were unable to discover any reliable good-quality evidence in the fluoridation literature world-wide” and that “we felt that not enough was known because the quality of the evidence was poor.” There might have been a time where the evidence supported fluoridation, but not anymore. So where is the abundance of evidence water fluoridation proponents talk about? It doesn’t exist. (Oregon’s own “Smile Survey” found less than a 1 percent difference in the number kids with one or more cavities between fluoridated vs. non-fluoridated communities.)
Science, the weekly magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, supported this view when I asked them to clarify the issue when it is brought up in the article “An evolutionary theory of dentistry” by A. Gibbons (25 May, 2012, p. 973). According to the editors: “Water in most European nations (is) not fluoridated. However European improvements in public dental health from the 1970’s to present have matched or exceeded those of the United States. Reasons include fluoridated toothpastes, which became widely available in the 1970’s, and changing criteria for diagnosing caries.” (2 Nov, 2012, p. 604).
As this recent peer-reviewed article points out, fluoride is a highly cytotoxic chemical that humans ingest from many sources. It negatively affects nearly every metabolic process in living cells. When it is added to water, there is no way to control for dosage. With the consumption and use nowadays of fluoride containing toothpastes, gels, and mouth rinses “the consumption of fluoride by humans became uncontrolled and unpredictable often exceeding its therapeutic window” (Agalakova and Gusev, Fluoride 45(4), 2012). As a result, people living in countries where fluoride is added to water are at risk of getting too much of it. And this can lead to arthritis, a slower thyroid, hip fractures, a weakened immune system, skeletal fluorosis, and many other side effects.
While proponent’s of water fluoridation assert there is no known evidence of harm, this is simply not true. In 2005, horses and dogs in Pagosa Springs, Colorado were injured or killed by fluoride from the city’s water supply.
This recent peer-reviewed article shows toxic effects of fluoride in cattle in Indian in water with a mean fluoride level of only 2 ppm, well below the EPA’s estimate of a safe level in drinking water for humans.
For these reasons, the scientist’s union at the EPA has formally taken a stand again water fluoridation because it isn’t safe for everyone including elderly people, dialysis patients, infants, and young children. It’s estimated that overall, about one to five percent of the population is allergic or highly sensitive to fluoride.
Here’s a good summary of the dubious methods used in the U.S. to introduce fluoride into the water supply which can also be found in Chris Bryson’s book The Fluoride Deception.
And just for example, here’s a blogger who appears to have looked at the issue objectively and come to similar conclusions.
When you look at this evidence, the hard evidence based on real scientific research, you can only come to a conclusion that belief in water fluoridation is just that: a belief. There’s not much to back it up and potential for vulnerable people to be harmed. It’s more of a religious cult, than a science. Because no matter what evidence you present, water fluoridation proponents will claim that you are “against progress” or some such similar argument. Its tautological at best.
While I’m sure that some people would like there to be a magical chemical that the government can add to your drinking water to make your teeth perfectly healthy, it’s a fantasy. Such a substance doesn’t exist. It’s up to you to take care of your teeth and those of your children. (Note: even the CDC now admits that topical applications of fluoride, as in toothpastes and gels, are much more effective than systemic ones.)
For more evidence-based information, see the website FluorideAlert.org and The Case Against Fluoride by Drs. Connett, Beck, and Micklem. And if you’re motivated, use this neat tool to write letters to your local newspapers and speak your mind about the subject.