Is Water Fluoridation In The Best Interests of Public Health?
Amazingly, the United States is only one of eight countries in the entire developed world that fluoridate more than 50 percent of their water supply. The other seven are Australia, Colombia, Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore. In Europe, Ireland is the only country that fluoridates more than 50 percent of its drinking water, and England fluoridates 10 percent. Most of mainland Europe is not fluoridated, and yet, according to World Health Organization data, their teeth are just as good, if not better, than those of Americans.
One of the central challenges in this debate is that the United States claims to be one of the most advanced scientific countries in the world, yet we're still engaging in a practice that is questionable at best, and harmful at worst.
I recently interviewed Dr. Paul Connett, who is trained as a chemist and specializes in environmental chemistry. He is known throughout the world as a leader in the movement against water fluoridation because of his knowledge base, and during our sit-down, he shared the information I'll cover in this article. This interview is part of an ongoing effort to help provide you with the tools to take action in three primary areas, and help you understand that indeed you can make a real difference in this area.
Is Water Fluoridation Really in the Best Interest of Public Health?
As you may know, the theory behind the introduction of fluoride in your water supply initially seems beneficial: to reduce the incidence of dental caries in children. However, the health dangers of fluoride are so numerous that they far outweigh any potential benefit to your teeth.
You Can't Control The Dose
"First of all, water fluoridation is very bad medicine," Dr. Connett says, "because once you put it in the water, you can't control the dose. You can't control who gets it. There is no oversight. You're allowing a community to do to everyone what a doctor can do to no one, i.e., force a patient to take a particular medication."
Prior to 1945, when communal water fluoridation in the U.S. took effect, fluoride was actually a known toxin. For example, a 1936 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association stated that fluoride at the 1 ppm (part per million) concentration is as toxic as arsenic and lead. Years later, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated in their September 18, 1943 issue that fluorides are general protoplasmic poisons that change the permeability of the cell membrane by certain enzymes. Additionally, an editorial published in the Journal of the American Dental Association on October 1, 1944 stated, "Drinking water containing as little as 1.2 ppm fluoride will cause developmental disturbances. We cannot run the risk of producing such serious systemic disturbances. The potentialities for harm outweigh those for good."
Secondly, water fluoridation is both unnecessary and completely avoidable. Ending water fluoridation is as easy as turning off a spigot. It's not a matter of having to devise costly equipment to somehow take it out of the water supply.
Today, even promoters of fluoridation concede that the major benefits are topical; fluoride works from the outside of the tooth, not from inside of your body, so why swallow it? Why put it in the drinking water when you could just brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste if you choose? Please note that I do not believe that you should use fluoride in your toothpaste, but I am just emphasizing the point that it might work topically but does not work at all when you swallow it. There are far better options for decreasing tooth decay than using a topical poison.
Third, water fluoridation is ineffective. There is practically no difference in tooth decay between fluoridated and non-fluoridated countries, and no difference between states that have a high or low percentage of their water fluoridated.
The Significant Damage Caused By Fluoride
"We know that 32 percent of American children have been overexposed to fluoride," Connett says, "because you have this telltale sign of dental fluorosis, which in its mildest form is little white specs. But when it gets more serious, it affects more of the surface of your teeth and it becomes colored; yellow, brown and orange mottling of the teeth."
The Unseen Damage
Promoters of fluoridation scoff at these signs, saying that they're "just cosmetic." But, since we already know that water fluoridation does not effectively reduce dental caries, this is an unnecessary cosmetic defect, and, worse yet, it is a worrisome indication that your body has been overexposed to fluoride. If it's having a detrimental, visual effect on the surface of your teeth, you can be virtually guaranteed that it's also damaging something else inside your body, such as your bones.
"The teeth are the window to the bones," Connett says. "If you've seen the damage to the teeth, what damage can you not see?"
Bone is in fact living tissue that is constantly being replaced through cellular turnover. Bone building is a finely balanced, complicated process. Fluoride has been known to disrupt this process ever since the 1930s. We have huge concerns about the potential of fluoride to damage the bone and cause symptoms like arthritis and making them more brittle and more prone to fracture.
How Fluoridated Water Is Lowering Your Child's IQ
"We now have 23 studies from four different countries (Mexico, Iran, India and China) which indicate that moderate exposure to fluoride is lowering I.Q. in children," Connett says. "The lowest level at which they estimate this is happening is 1.9 parts per million of fluoride. If you've got an effect at 1.9 parts per million with a few hundred children in the study, then there is not enough margin of safety to protect every child that's being exposed to fluoride."
You need a much larger margin of safety to protect children living in fluoridated communities! Meanwhile, the U.S. has not yet studied the impact of fluoride on I.Q.. "The countries which are fluoridated are doing practically no health studies," Connett points out. "They are far more concerned about protecting this policy for some reason than protecting health."
In 2003, the National Research Council appointed one of the most balanced and objective panels of experts that has ever objectively investigated fluoride. They spent about three years studying it and determined that the current "safe" drinking water standard of 4 ppm (parts per million) set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for fluoride is too high and should be lowered. But in the four years since, the EPA has not completed a new health-risk assessment, and thus we still live with this outdated and unsafe standard, even though the NRC study was specifically requested by the EPA.
You Can't Get Fluoride Without A Prescription!
When evaluating the issue of water fluoridation, it is also important to understand that fluoride is a drug. You can't get fluoride without a prescription! Yet it's being added to your water supply on a mandatory basis at various levels that may not be safe for various individuals, especially children, the sick, and the elderly.
Water fluoridation is thus a major assault on your freedom of choice -- to be drugged or not. Sodium fluoride, which is a far simpler toxin than the fluoride compounds used for most water fluoridation, has also been used for rat and cockroach poisons, so there is no question that it is highly toxic.
How Safe Is Fluoride When We're Told To 'Call Poison Control'?
Connett says: The sad irony here is that the FDA, which does not regulate fluoride in drinking water, does regulate toothpaste and on the back of a tube of fluoridated toothpaste ... it must state that "if your child swallows more than the recommended amount, contact a poison control center."
The amount that they're talking about, the recommended amount, which is a pea-sized amount, is equivalent to one glass of water.
The FDA is not putting a label on the tap saying don't drink more than one glass of water. If you do, contact a poison center.
There is no question that fluoride - not an excessive amount - can cause serious harm. There have been examples of children who swallowed the gel that is used for topical treatment and they died as a consequence. So fluoride is extremely toxic.
According to Dr. Connett, you also increase your child's risk for dental fluorosis if he brushes his teeth with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day compared to just once. "We're not talking about killing people outright with drinking water," he says. "What we're concerned about is the chronic exposure ... It's poisonous."
Fluoride Breaks Down Your Bones and Damages Your Thyroid
Approximately 50 percent of the fluoride that you ingest each day ends up accumulating in your bones over a lifetime. So you're steadily increasing the fluoride levels in your bones over time. Dr. Connett recounts the evidence gleaned from India and China, where some areas have high natural fluoride levels. There, the initial symptoms of fluoride poisoning are arthritis-like symptoms such as joint pains. Despite these findings, no study has ever been conducted in the U.S. to investigate whether there's an association between people living in fluoridated areas and increasing arthritis rates.
Fluoride also lowers thyroid function. It was used in medicine during the 1930s through 1950s in Europe to treat patients with overactive thyroid glands. This is a very real and significant concern, especially today as millions of people suffer with low thyroid function. Women seem to be particularly sensitive to this.
If you exhibit symptoms of low thyroid function you'll want to get a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test. If it's above 1.5, then you probably need to address your thyroid, at which point it becomes mandatory to avoid fluoride from all sources.
Common symptoms of decreased thyroid function include:
- Low body temperature
- Lack of energy
- Dry skin
- Tendency toward constipation
- Not sweating well
Your drinking water and fluoridated toothpaste are the two most obvious sources, but you may also be exposed to fluoride from certain drugs, if they are metabolized to free fluoride in the body. This may occur with some antidepressants and some antibiotics, especially the fluoroquinolones. Another source is pesticides, so it also becomes more important to eat organic.
Where Does the Fluoride Come From?
It's important to make a distinction between the natural fluorides found in the environment and the toxic chemicals used for fluoridating your water. Ninety percent of the chemicals used in fluoridation in the United States do not occur naturally.
"It's a substance called hexafluorosilicic acid or its sodium salt: silicon fluorides," Connett explains. "These silicon fluorides are captured pollutants from the phosphate fertilizer industry. When you're making phosphate fertilizers ... the process generates two very toxic gasses: hydrogen fluoride and silicon tetrafluoride."
For about a hundred years, these decimated the local area: they damaged the vegetation, crippled cattle and so on. Eventually, they were required to capture these toxic gasses, using a spray of water. That spray of water produces silicon fluorides. That scrubbing liquor cannot be dumped into the sea by international law. It can't be dumped locally because it's too concentrated. But if someone buys it, it's no longer a hazardous waste, it's a product.
So who buys it?
"The public water utilities buy this stuff and put it in our drinking water. It's absolutely absurd," says Connett.
Dr. William Hirzy from the EPA has pointed out that if it goes into the air, it's a pollutant. If it goes into the local water, it's pollution. But if the public water utilities buy it and pour it in our drinking water, it's no longer a pollutant. All of a sudden, like magic, it's a beneficial public health measure.
"So not only are we doing something quite unique, using the public water supply to deliver medicine ... we're using the public water supply to get rid of hazardous waste from the phosphate industry," Connett says. "It makes a lot of money for them [this way, because otherwise it would cost] a lot of money to get rid of it as hazardous waste."
Making matters worse, if that's even possible, is that in recent times the U.S. has started purchasing these industrial fluoride products from China, as phosphate-producing industry in Florida has been reduced. However, some communities in the U.S. have stopped using China-made fluoride because it was producing a white sludge that jammed up the delivery system.
"The Center for Disease Control engineer said, 'We don't know what this sludge is but we know it's safe,'" Connett says. "But if you don't know what it is, how can you say it's safe?"
The Real Cause of Tooth Decay
As far as tooth decay is concerned, this is not caused by lack of fluoride. Tooth decay is caused by acids in your mouth, typically created from sugar being metabolized by bacteria (Streptococcus mutans), and as you may already know, the number-one source of calories in the United States is high fructose corn syrup.
The acid produced then attacks your enamel. Eventually the bacteria can get into the dentine, at which point tooth decay sets in. You typically don't find dental caries in more primitive societies that do not consume these vast amounts of sugar. "We need education, not fluoridation," Connett agrees. "That education would have a double dividend. By avoiding high fructose sugar, we'll not only score a huge benefit with dental decay but also with obesity and health."
A Special Note About Using Tap Water When Making Infant Formula
Most of the people who are educated about fluoride will avoid drinking municipal tap water that is fluoridated, and will use a reverse osmosis system in your home to rid your water of fluoride. However, there are many who simply don't have the resources or the know-how to protect themselves and their young children.
In November 2006, the American Dental Association (ADA) sent out an email to alert its members of their recommendation to parents to not use fluoridated tap water to make infant formula. A few days later, the CDC followed suit. But neither of them openly informed the public! So there are millions of parents out there using tap water to make up formula, oblivious of the fact that the agencies that promote fluoridation in this country have issued a specific warning against using fluoridated water for this purpose.
Not only that, but by fluoridating the municipal water supply, you doom many low-income families to fail to protect their young children from this dangerous drug, even if they have this information.