Why is fluoride added to water?
Fluoride is added to water to prevent cavities (tooth decay).
What makes fluoride different from other water treatment chemicals?
All water treatment chemicals, with the exception of fluoride, are added to make drinking water safe and pleasant to consume. Fluoride is the only chemical added to treat people who consume the water, rather than the water itself. Fluoridating water supplies is therefore a form of medication, which is why most European countries have rejected the practice.
Do we need fluoride?
No. It is now well established that fluoride is not an essential nutrient. This means that no human disease – including tooth decay – will result from a “deficiency” of fluoride. Fluoridating water supplies is therefore different than adding iodine to salt. Unlike fluoride, iodine is an essential nutrient (the body needs iodine to ensure the proper functioning of the thyroid gland). No such necessity exists for fluoride.
Which countries fluoridate their water?
Most developed nations in the world have rejected fluoridation, including 97% of Western Europe. The United States, which fluoridates more than 70% of its water supplies, is an exception to this rule. According to the British Fluoridation Society, there are more people drinking artificially fluoridated water in the United States than all other countries combined.
Does fluoride occur naturally in water?
As a general rule, the only fresh water with high levels of the natural calcium fluoride (other than waters polluted by fluoride-emitting industries) is water derived from deep wells in certain areas but not generally in Washington. Rather than being something to celebrate, high levels of naturally occurring fluorides have wreaked havoc on tens of millions of people’s health around the world. People consuming water with naturally high levels of fluoride have been found to suffer serious health ailments including disfiguring tooth damage, bone disease, ulcers, reduced IQ, thyroid disease, and infertility. Because of this, international organizations like UNICEF assist developing nations in finding ways of removing naturally occurring fluoride from the water.
Thankfully, most fresh water supplies contain very low levels of fluoride. The average level of naturally occurring fluoride in unpolluted fresh water is less than 0.1 parts per million (ppm), which is about 10 times less than the levels added to water in fluoridation programs (0.7 to 1.2 ppm). The frequent claim, therefore, that “nature thought of fluoridation first” does not withstand scrutiny.
Where do artificial fluoridation chemicals come from?
The main chemicals used to fluoridate drinking water are known as “silicofluorides” (i.e., hydrofluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate). Silicofluorides are not pharmaceutical-grade fluoride products; they are unprocessed industrial by-products of the phosphate fertilizer and aluminum industries. Since these silicofluorides undergo no purification procedures, they can contain elevated levels of arsenic — more so than any other water treatment chemical.
How does the addition of fluoridation chemicals to the water supply increase the risk of exposure to lead and arsenic?
Recent research suggests that the addition of silicofluorides to water is a risk factor for elevated lead exposure, particularly among residents who live in cities or homes with old pipes.
Does fluoridated water reduce tooth decay?
If water fluoridation has a benefit, it is a minimal one. Recent large-scale studies from the United States have found little practical or statistical difference in tooth decay rates among children living in fluoridated versus non-fluoridated areas. In addition, data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that tooth decay rates have declined just as rapidly in non-fluoridated western countries as they have in fluoridated western countries.
Does fluoride need to be swallowed in order to prevent tooth decay?
No. Although fluoridation of water was initially approved on the premise that swallowing fluoride is the most effective way to strengthen teeth, most dental researchers now concede that fluoride’s primary benefit comes from direct topical contact with the teeth, not from ingestion. There is no need to swallow fluoride to prevent tooth decay, whether in water or tablet form.
It is hard to overstate the importance of this point to the fluoride debate, particularly when considering that fluoride’s risks come primarily from ingestion.
What are the risks from swallowing fluoride?
Fluoride has long been known to be a very toxic substance. This is why, like arsenic, fluoride has been used in pesticides and rodenticides (to kill rats, insects, etc). It is also why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires that all fluoride toothpaste sold in the U.S. carry a poison warning that instructs users to contact the poison control center if they swallow more than used for brushing.
Excessive fluoride exposure is well known to cause a painful bone disease (skeletal fluorosis), as well as a discoloration of the teeth known as dental fluorosis. Excessive fluoride exposure has also been linked to a range of other chronic ailments including arthritis, bone fragility, dental fluorosis, glucose intolerance, gastrointestinal distress, thyroid disease, and possibly cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
While the lowest doses that cause some of these effects are not yet well defined, it is clear that certain subsets of the population are particularly vulnerable to fluoride’s toxicity. Populations that have heightened susceptibility to fluoride include infants, individuals with kidney disease, individuals with nutrient deficiencies (particularly calcium and iodine), and individuals with medical conditions that cause excessive thirst.
To view possible symptoms of fluoride poisoning, visit SecondLook: http://www.slweb.org/ftrcpossiblesymptoms.html
To view possible symptoms of fluoride overdose, visit the University of Maryland: http://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/fluoride-overdose
Why hasn’t the FDA tested fluoride for safety?
The FDA argues that fluoride was grandfathered in because it was in use before 1938. However, the only use at that time was for rat and roach poison–water fluoridation did not begin until 1945. Thus, the FDA is basically saying that since fluoride is okay for rat poison, it is okay to put into our drinking water.
Hasn’t 60 years of use in water demonstrated that fluoride is safe?
Definitely not. This point is emphasized by Dr. John Doull, University Kansas Medical Center, who chaired the most exhaustive review ever of the research on fluoride, the 507 page 2006 report by the National Research Council entitled Fluoride in Drinking Water. In an article by Dan Fagin, “Second Thoughts about Fluoride” (in the January 2008 issue of Scientific American), Doull was quoted as follows: (from page 80)
“What the committee found is that we’ve gone with the status quo regarding fluoride for many years-for too long, really—and now we need to take a fresh look.”
“In the scientific community, people tend to think this is settled. I mean, when the U.S. surgeon general comes out and says this is one of the 10 greatest achievements of the 20th century, that’s a hard hurdle to get over. But when we looked at the studies that have been done, we found that many of these questions are unsettled and we have much less information than we should, considering how long this [fluoridation] has been going on. I think that’s why fluoridation is still being challenged so many years after it began. In the face of ignorance, controversy is rampant.”
How do I remove fluoride from my tap water?
If you live in a community that fluoridates its water supply, there are several options to avoid drinking the fluoride that is added. Unfortunately, each of these options will cost money (unless you happen to have access to a free source of spring water). The options include:
Spring water: Most spring water contains very low levels of fluoride (generally less than 0.1 ppm).
Water filtration: Many water filters (e.g., Brita & Pur) use an “activated carbon” filter that does not remove fluoride. Water filters that do remove fluoride include reverse osmosis, deionizers that use ion-exchange resin, and activated alumina.
Water Distillation: Distilling water is an effective way of removing fluoride from water. Whereas a water filter is installed directly into the sink, a distillation unit is a separate device that can be stored on your countertop.
Note: Even if you find a source to remove fluoride from drinking water, a large amount of fluoride can be absorbed through skin while bathing.
My child has dental fluorosis. What can we do to fix it?
The tooth discoloration that fluorosis causes can be reduced, and sometimes eliminated, through cosmetic treatment. Treatment options for fluorosis, however, will depend on the severity of the fluorosis.
Should we give our child fluoride supplements if our water does not contain fluoride?
Fluoride supplements were developed on the incorrect assumptions that fluoride is a nutrient and is effective when swallowed. Modern research has found that, while fluoride supplements greatly increase the risk of dental fluorosis, they do little to reduce tooth decay. Most western countries have thus begun to phase out the use of fluoride supplements, and even the American Dental Association now only recommends them for children who are at particularly high risk of tooth decay.