Fluoride in water. A medicine turned toxin

Water fluoridation in the United States has been controversial since it began in 1945. As awareness of fluoride’s toxicity increases, battles for its removal intensify.

Water fluoridation is one of the top ten public health achievements of the 20th century according to the US Centers for Disease Control, but long-term studies show that fluoride may cause negative health effects. Most of Europe has rejected this practice, and while 25 countries have water fluoridation programmes, more people drink artificially fluoridated water in the US than all other countries combined.

Fluoride, often used in pesticides and rodenticides, is the only chemical added to treat people who drink water and not the water itself. Since its function is to prevent tooth decay, a disease, the US Food and Drug Administration considers it medicine. This is why opponents describe its widespread use as a form of mass medication. It is not an essential nutrient and has long been known to be toxic. The most commonly used fluoride additives are silicofluorides: unpurified, industrial byproducts of the fertilizer industry, very different from the fluoride salts used in toothpaste and other dental products which must themselves carry a poison warning.


The US Government is now recommending lower levels of fluoride in water, a decision possibly prompted by recent large-scale studies that show a rapid decline in tooth decay rates in Western countries that treat water using fluoridation as well as those that don’t. Harvard University’s Dr. Grandjean advocates using it topically, for example in tooth brushing, as opposed to swallowing the chemical and subjecting all of the body’s organs to it since fluoride doesn’t need to be ingested to be effective. He also believes there is a reasonable concern that it can affect brain development and reduce IQ. Research suggests a link between fluoridation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the painful bone disease skeletal fluorosis, the tooth enamel defect dental fluorosis and other health complications.


Doctor McKay
Doctor McKay, water fluoridation proponent © Bettmann/CORBIS


Even deep well water with naturally occurring high levels of fluoride is dangerous and has adversely affected the health of tens of millions of people consuming it in India. Thankfully most fresh, unpolluted water supplies contain very low levels of the chemical. If you’re worried about overexposure to it choose filtered, distilled or spring water and consume local, organically grown food. In addition, the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), a non-profit organization based in the US state of New York, has been trying to end water fluoridation around the globe since 2000. Its website offers up-to-date recommendations and answers many questions consumers may have.

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