Health

How To Be Smart About Fluoride in Your Drinking Water

Illustration in a 1955 flier by the Keep America Committee, alleging that fluoridation was a Communist plot.
Illustration in a 1955 flier by the Keep America Committee, alleging that fluoridation was a Communist plot.

 

Is tap water fluoridation compulsory medication to subdue the masses? A government plot to destroy our brains? And did Hitler really use it to pacify the Jews?

No of course not. I would suggest to take the abundant warnings roaming the internet on tap water fluoridation with a grain of salt.

Let’s just put our tinfoil hats away for a moment and think about another question that rises.

Should we be worried about fluoride?

The extensive research I did on this topic shows there is no convincing evidence fluoride in our tap water is dangerous to our health.

Some research indicates fluoride can cause bone weakness and tooth damage if ingested at high levels for many years. It also seems there’s a tiny risk on a very rare bone cancer.

However, which exact levels of fluoride intake are unhealthy is unclear but most experts agree that unhealthy fluoride intake would not nearly be achieved with drinking water fluoridation.

But, since many processed foods are treated with fluoridated water, since certain types of tea contain considerable amounts of fluoride your daily intake could stack up. Therefore it certainly makes sense to be critical about your fluoride intake. As well as for some other reasons.

 

4 More Reasons To Avoid Drinking Fluorided Water

When you also take into account that no-one knows for sure how much fluoride is too much it would probably be wise to limit your fluoride exposure. Just to be sure.

  • For example example people who drink lots of tea. (Certain types of tea have high fluoride contents) could avoid problems by installing a home water filter that catches fluoride.
  • Filtering your home’s tap water could even make more sense since the necessity of systemic fluoride seems declinced since nowadays people brush their teeth better and most toothpastes are fluoridated.
  • Another important aspect is that before 1981 it was thought fluoride had to be ingested (systemic action) to prevent tooth decay but nowadays it’s clear that fluoride works topically.
  • Most water contains naturally occurring fluoride. With the continued use of pesticides, we are seeing more fluoride in water around agricultural areas.
  • And of course there’s the matter of our self-determination. For me and many others it’s just hard to stomach that we don’t have a say. I just don’t want to be force-fed a substance. Being medicated without my consent. Any substance. And especially not when recent research indicates it may be less healthy than we were always told.

So that’s why I think it’s wise to use water filters that filter fluoride. Even though I haven’t seen convincing evidence that fluoridated tap water is a genuine health hazzard.

This was the tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) version of this pretty long post. If you’re curious and inquisitive like I am, or secretly want to know more about the conspiracy theories, read on to find out more about this controversial topic.

Let’s take a critical look at the ins and outs, pros and cons, without the bias and scaremongering so omnipresent at the internet, of drinking water fluoridation.

 

What Exactly is Fluoride?

It’s a mineral that naturally occurs in very small amounts in soil, rock, water, plants, and animals. This is natural fluoride. The scientific name for the stuff that’s added to drinking water is hexafluorosilicic acid. This is artificial fluoride.

Other, similar, subtances used to fluoridate water are sodium fluoride and sodium fluorosilicate. Some say it’s a fairly benign chemical. Others point to the fact that there’s skulls on the barrels and thus is hazardous. Fact is that both are toxic, only the dosage differs.

But in small amounts fluoride seems to be very beneficial;

“In this respect, fluoride ion is similar to many other substances, such as vitamin D, that are harmful in large amounts but are required in small amounts for life and good health of human beings.” says Linus Pauling, winner of the Nobel Prize (1954) and National Medal of Science (1974)

 

Yes Fluoride Is Toxic, But Only In Extreme Amounts. Or Is It?

It’s the dose that makes the poison. An essential aspect must first be recognized; toxicity doesn’t necessarily mean “need to avoid.”

The Institute of Medicine has classified fluoride a “nutrient,” responsible for strong bones and teeth and even good hearing. Like other nutrient minerals, e.g. iron and calcium, fluoride is beneficial ingested in the right amounts.

Opinions on which dose is acceptable differ. The dose in the UK for example, is 4 times lower than that in the US (about 10% of the population in the United Kingdom receive fluoridated water) Also, in the US the “upper tolerable limit” of fluoride is 10mg of fluoride daily. This includes ingestion from other sources such as tea, sea food et cetera.

According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies 4 mg of fluoride is the maximum recommended amount of fluoride per day, the maximum tolerable amount of 10 mg fluoride per day

In 2006, after reviewing new data at the E.P.A.’s request, a panel of experts appointed by the National Research Council concluded that the four-milligram maximum should be lowered (it did not say by how much) to prevent tooth enamel damage in children and bone fractures in adults.

Too much fluoride, like anything, is probably not a good idea. Indeed, some studies now indicate that over a certain amount of fluoride per day ( around 4mg) taken routinely for decades, and one will experience negative side effects such as joint and muscle problems, pain, tooth disease, and possibly even diminished IQ.

In India, people drinking ground water in public wells containing high levels of natural fluoride of up to 23 mg per liter led to stiff joints, restricted movement, and kidney failure. As a result of these excessive fluoride levels many people in that area have been crippled for life.

 

When Is Fluoride Lethal?

The lethal dose is 5-10 gram of fluoride. In order to ingest this one has to, based on the recommended amount of fluoride in tap water which is 0,5mg – 1mg per liter to drink 250 liter of tap water.

Most toothpaste contains between 1000 and 1500 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. A ‘pea’ of toothpaste roughly has 1 milligram of fluoride. At aproximately 60 servings you would have to eat more than 100 tubes of toothpaste for it to be lethal.

Fluoride In Foods

Well, because there are no exact international standards on fluoridation, every region in the world deals with fluoridation differently. Natural sodium fluoride is present in the ocean, and subsequently in sea food. But it’s also found in tea, processed foods that use fluoridated water (e.g. soft drinks, beer, white wine), meat products, Mac Donalds french fries, and gelatin.

On top of that, Paul Connett, PhD – Professor of Chemistry, St. Lawrence University, New York says that:

fluoridated water is sometimes used to water food crops where it can accumulate in high concentrations

Though the concentrations of fluoride in water are extremely low, some people worry that fluoridation actually acts to poison people. Many others argue that generally present fluoride levels likely don’t present a large threat to health.

Renowned dr. Weil said:

Fluoride is toxic in very large quantities and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and sometimes even death. But you’d have to ingest about 20,000 times more fluoride than what’s in an 8-ounce glass of fluoridated water to see such an effect.

The question again remains, “at what levels of fluoride do we see the negative health effects appear?” and ” how much do we take in?”

So How About Recent Studies on the Health Effects of Fluoride Intake?

In the U.S., research is expanding regarding the widespread use of fluoride. Because there have been scientific findings that show fluoride does pose health risks at high doses, researchers are working with the U.S. government to try and determine the best course of action.

Already five years ago a Scientific American study reported to have “Second thoughts about fluoride”.

Fluoride is thought to interfere with proper endocrine function in the body and may disrupt cognitive function of the brain.

A 2006 report by a committee of the National Research Council recommended that the federal government lower its current limit for fluoride in drinking water because of health risks to both children and adults.

And other studies as well notice that excessive intake of fluoride seems to be able to cause a variety of health problems. For example the Food Research International Journal notes:

  • Dental fluorosis may occur, which causes discolorations on the enamel of the teeth.
  • Fluoride is thought to poison enzymes in the body.
  • Skeletal fluorosis, a crippling ailment, results in bone and joint pain, muscle weakness and gastrointestinal disorders.
  • This tends to occur in people who have routinely consumed 10 to 20mg of fluoride per day for 10 to 20 years or  2.5 to five mg per day for at least 40 years.
  • Excessive fluoride consumption has also been linked to osteoporosis.
  • Areas with high fluoride levels in drinking water show a higher incidence of kidney stones.
  • A 1992 study by the New Jersey Department of Health in the U.S found that bone cancer rates in young men were three to seven times higher in fluoridated water areas than non-fluoridated areas. However, the CDC issued a statement that one study showed a potential increase in osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, in young males who drink fluoridated water. It should be noted that this is a very rare type of cancer.
  • The report also notes that “a series of epidemiological studies in China have associated high fluoride exposures with lower IQ.”

The National Academy of Sciences however, could not substantiate the studies linking fluoride to lowered I.Q. after examination. Similarly, a large and recent study conducted by Harvard and the National Cancer Institute found no link between fluoride and bone cancer.

The Cochrane Oral Health Group concludes:

There is unequivocal evidence from a series of Cochrane OHG reviews that topical fluorides reduce the incidence of caries. The effects of mass medication using water fluoridation were investigated in a systematic review by the University of York. Water fluoridation probably reduces caries by an average of 15% overall, has an effect over and above toothpaste, may reduce inequalities between social groups, probably causes more mottled teeth than previously thought and may or may not cause other harms such as cancer, bone problems etc. These findings are however based on poor quality evidence and more research is needed

Is Water Fluoridation Still Necessary?

Is systemic fluoride still necessary since people brush their teeth better and most toothpastes are fluoridated? The effects community water fluoridation had after it was implemented are no longer attainable in the US. Topical fluoride, e.g. in toothpastes, has reduced caries and thus the benefits of fluoridation have diminished. (8)

Several studies conducted in fluoridated and nonfluoridated communities suggested that this method of delivering fluoride may be unnecessary for caries prevention, particularly in the industrialized countries where the caries level has became low.

Also, more recently tooth decay has declined equally in areas in the world where they did not add fluoride to community water.

Conclusion of meta research through the Medline database:

It is now accepted that the primary cariostatic action of fluoride occurs after tooth eruption. Moreover, the caries reduction directly attributable to water fluoridation have declined in the last decades as the use of topical fluoride had become more widespread, whereas enamel fluorosis has been reported as an emerging problem in fluoridated areas.

Several studies conducted in fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities suggested that this method may be unnecessary for caries prevention particularly in industrialized countries where the caries level has become low. Although water fluoridation may still be a relevant public health measure in poor and disadvantaged populations, the use of topical fluoride offers an optimal opportunity to prevent caries among people living in both industrialized and developing countries. Source.

Moreover, fluoridation seems to cause fluorosis. The director of the Iowa Fluoride Study which tracked about 700 Iowa children for sixteen years, Steven Levy, said;

Nine-year-old “Iowa children who lived in communities where the water was fluoridated were 50 percent more likely to have mild fluorosis… than [nine-year-old] children living in nonfluoridated areas of the state,”

Another Reason To Quit Adding Fluoride

I like drinking tea. I drink pu erh tea, white tea, green tea, red tea, black tea, rooibos tea. I love tea. But it’s becoming clear that because tea plants accumulate fluoride you have to be cautious.

Tea plants uptake materials from the environment and store these. Therefore, older tea leaves show higher concentrations of fluoride. When tea is brewed with fluoridated water, obviously the amount of dissolved fluoride increases even more

A 2013 British study of 38 teas found that cheaper UK supermarket tea blends had the highest levels of fluoride with about 580 mg per kilogram. They calculated that if you would drink a liter of cheap tea (probably made of old leaves) daily you would consume about 4 mg of fluoride. Which is the maximum recommended amount of fluoride per day and does not touch the maximum tolerable amount of 10 mg fluoride per day but this is only due to the consumption of tea.

Where Do The Governments Put Fluoride in the Drinking Water?

extent of fluoridated water usage around the worldMore than half of the U.S. population has artificially fluoridated water running through their household pipes. (it’s estimated at 66%) This includes 46 of the nation’s 50 largest cities.

Next to the U.S., other countries that fluoridate drinking water (to varying degrees) to Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Spain, and Vietnam.

Some countries have discontinued water fluoridation such as Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Japan. Coercive medication was perceived as a violation of civil rights and public resistance led to abolition of this practice.

 

Discussion on Forced Medication

The origination of putting fluoride into water was based upon the notion that the fluoride was helpful in maintaining teeth. Whether or not the government should be distributing medicine in such an unregulated way is possibly a more interesting question that what most people opposed to fluoride claim, especially considering the efficacy of this practice is now up for debate.

The opposition claims a definite and direct causal link between fluoridation and bone disease (in the form of bone fluorosis) and endocrine system disruption (leaving a person susceptible to dangerous hormonal changes–such as growth and metabolism problems).

Much of the debate surrounding fluoridation has to do with what opponents call “forced medication.” Because the premise of fluoride began under the guise of public-health, many opponents are concerned that the so-called “forced medication” of the public for public-health’s sake is actually backfiring.

Conspiracy Theory or Factual Evidence?

Since the US, in the 1970’s, have been adding fluoride to the drinking water to battle tooth decay there has been controversy and discussion. Conspiracy theories are rampant on the internet with statements that fluoride is used to make the masses dumb and infertile.

In 1964 the politically engaged Stanley Kubrick mocked conspiracy theorists in his movie Dr. Strangelove.  Paranoid and deranged General Ripper advised to only drink wodka since tap water is contaminated with fluoride.

 

Does Fluoride Really Calcify The Pineal Gland?

pineal gland calcification

Some people state that they are more clear-minded since they stopped consuming fluoridated drinking water. This, supposedly, has to do with the pineal gland.

The pineal gland being a third eye is a theosophical concept derived from Dharmic spiritual traditions such as Hinduism responsible for higher consciousness and spirituality.

Some truly believe fluoride intake has a mind numbing, pacifying affect. This is supposed to be a result of fluoride calcifying the pineal gland. Science shows there is a connection between excesss fluoride intake and thyroid function however such exaggerated claims have never been proven.

Pineal gland calcification is thoroughly documented since decades as highly frequent and of no pathological consequence.

 

Others think fluoride causes swelling of the thyroid gland (endemic goiter) This however is generally attributed to iodine deficiency (Murray et al. 1948; Obel 1982; Larsen et al. 2002; Belchetz and Hammond 2003).

On the other hand, it is also mentioned that exessive fluoride intake may be inducing diseases that have usually been attributed to iodine deficiency and that iodine supplementation may not be adequate when excess fluoride is being consumed. McLaren (1976), suggested that physiological or functional changes might occur at fluoride intakes of 5 mg/day. Other studies also indicate a relation of some kind.

Bürgi et al. (1984) also stated that published data fail to support the hypothesis that fluoride has adverse effects on the thyroid (at doses recommended for caries prevention).

 

Did the Nazi’s Use Fluoride on the Jews?

A persistent claim that roams the world wild web is that the Nazi’s used to add fluoride to the drinking water of the Jews in order to make them docile. If you use your common sense you will probably know. Did they need such measures? Of course not.

Over at Politifact they did some thorough research which included interviewing a spokesman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and other holocaust experts. They concluded it to be a myth. Christopher Bryson, an investigative reporter, television producer, and author of The Fluoride Deception said:

“I never came across any documentation or credible information showing that fluoride was used in Nazi death camps,”

Should You Reduce Your fluoride Exposure?

I don’t receive fluoridated water at my home. But if I did I might decide to use a filter that removes fluoride from my drinking water. I am still not convinced it’s actually bad for my health though. Not in the amounts we consume daily. Yes, some days I may exceed the maximum limit but I don’t think this is the case day in day out, year after year. All in all I think there are more important aspects of tap water to worry about. Chlorine and its byproducts for example.

Things You Can Do

There is little doubt in the scientific community that fluoride does help prevent tooth decay. However, there are ways to get fluoride without adding it to the drinking water supply. Further, the absolute best way to promote healthy teeth is to practice good oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), and to teach children to do this from a very early age.

A healthy diet is also very important. The bacteria that cause tooth decay do so by metabolizing the sugar residue that remains on the teeth after eating. Limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, or brushing one’s teeth immediately after consuming sugary foods will go a long way toward reducing an individual’s incidence of tooth decay. A healthy diet also helps promote a healthy bacterial flora in the stomach, gut, and mouth.

If you live in a community that adds fluoride to its drinking water, and you have concerns, you can drink bottled water that has no added fluoride. You can also petition your elected representatives or authorities who manage your local water supply, and let them know you are concerned about them adding fluoride to the water supply.

What Do You Think About Community Water Fluoridation?

image credit: Wikimedia commons.

1 Comment

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  • all these comments are about fluoride but what
    is actually used is not fluoride it is sodium fluoride
    big difference so please research and find the
    difference and where sodium fluoride comes from
    then maybe you will rethink some of your comments
    and the evidence of cancer rates and associated
    diseases with this chemical thanks for reading
    please download the MSDS sheet for sodium fluoride
    simple then talk about what its doing ,,,,!!!!