Fluoridated water…friend or foe?

When I decided to research this post on fluoride, I did so with a yawn.  I really didn’t expect to find anything shocking or discover concrete evidence on either side.

fluoride safety

This ad is from the company, ALCOA, an aluminum plant, that started it all.  Sodium fluoride is ALCOA’s chemical waste product.

Man, was I wrong…
Let me preface this post by saying I strictly avoided websites and articles from “fringe fanatics” on either end.  Odd thing was, I didn’t need any information other than what was available via the US government’s own websites to make the case to prove what a farce the whole “we need fluoride in our water” case  really is.

 What is fluoride? 

Fluoride is a chemical.  It occurs naturally  in foods, natural minerals and soil, and it is produced artificially by chemical synthesis and as a by-product of computer, fertilizer, and aluminum production.  It is found paired with other elements like sodium.

How did fluoride find its way into our drinking water?

We go back many  years ago, to the 1920′s, where a small  population in Bauxite Arkansas was noted to have brown stained teeth and were subsequently studied to find out the cause.  This had also been seen in Colorado.  The cause, it was discovered, was ingestion of too much fluoride in the drinking water.  This occurred naturally from the minerals found in the surrounding earth and rock.  It was later discovered , surprisingly, that the brown teeth were resistant to tooth decay, but the results were not conclusive.

At the time, two scientists, Trendley Dean and Frederick McKay, were investigating the dental finding under the supervision of the US Public Health Services.  Dean’s boss,  a Mr. Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the United States Treasury at the time, and supervisor of of the US Public Health Services, was also was the founder and controlling shareholder of  ALCOA, a huge aluminum production company that was taking some heat for being the source of adverse effects on the health of the residents near their factories, one of which was in Bauxite Arkansas.  Mellon was a bit nervous when brown teeth started showing up and was very interested in the research that was being done around it.

As mentioned before, some of the research suggested that the teeth, while brown and mottled, did not have the level of decay that was found in the general public.

So let’s review…. you have a factory, owned by a US government official, that was getting heat from health watchdog organizations about the adverse health effects of  aluminum production.   (Aluminum was also under particularly heavy scrutiny at this time because its uses were extending to eating and cooking utensils and there was some concern about aluminum exposure and health.)  People living around his production plant were getting brown teeth.  The teeth, although brown, were somewhat resistant to decay.  It isn’t surprising to learn, when you look at the players, that somehow this situation was “spun”  from a company causing concern because of a dental illness, into a profit making plan. 
Mr Mellon, if he played his cards right, could market his factory’s “chemical by-product, fluoride” and sell it back to the US government as a “beneficial water treatment for the American public” and become a saviour.  Smart guy.

I have to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Mellon had his associate Gerald Cox, who worked for ALCOA’s own science lab, (when you need to produce scientific data, why not produce it yourself?) immediately begin a campaign in the US to introduce fluoride as a possible treatment for dental disease.  He began by getting all the dentists on board including McKay, the research scientist working for Mellon under the government’s wing, who was the president of the Dental Association at the time.  Even though the data was not complete of even consistent, Cox’s campaign was successful.
(I guess it didn’t matter that until this point, fluoride compounds were marketed as rat and roach poison.  Mellon would later be asked to resign his position as Secretary of the US Treasury with a review panel citing “there was a tendency to suppress certain scientific reports of importance to the public health on the grounds that certain commercial interests might be offended”.)

The first town to have fluoride added was Grand Rapids Michigan in 1945.  The people of Grand Rapids was told they were luck enough to be chosen for a “demonstration study”, which leads one to believe that the fact of fluoride safety was proven, and it was just being implemented for studying sake. Over the next 10 years, the tooth decay incidence declined in Grand Rapids.  The scientists had their evidence and soon water was fluoridated everywhere.  There was no thought given to long term adverse effects.

fluoride toothpaste toxic
Because there was no FDA or any regulatory commission for drugs, fluoride toothpaste went into rapid production.  To this day, even though fluoride is found in hundreds of products, and is written as a prescription for infants, it has never been studied or approved by the FDA for use in anyone.  But that’s OK, because you can trust the US government, right?.

Some contradictions (and that’s putting it mildly)

In 2006, the US government asked a large independent team of experts from across the country to form a committee to look at the safety of fluoride in water.  There were separate groups to look at the risk of cancer, the risk of birth defects, etc.  Their report, entitled “Fluoride in Drinking Water: A scientific review of the EPS standards”, looked at all the data from day one.  You can read the entire report here. (all 330-something pages)

The result of their study caused the EPA to lower their recommendation for fluoride additives in January of this year (2011) from 1.2/ppm (part per million) to 0.7/ppm. their reasons are clear:

  • there is definite evidence that shows fluoride intake above  0.7 ppm (or 4 mg/L.. milligrams of fluoride per Liter of fluid) causes increased risk of bone fractures.
  • there is evidence that fluoride intake above 4 mg/L causes fluorosis, or browning, pitting and mottling of the tooth enamel in developing teeth.
  • they found no significant evidence linking fluoride and cancer, but recommended that further studies be done due to conflicting results. It states:  “the evidence on the potential of fluoride to initiate or promote cancers, particularly of the bone, is tentative and mixed and that, overall, the literature does not clearly indicate that fluoride either is or is not carcinogenic in humans.”

So how much fluoride is on your toothbrush when you fill it with fluoride toothpaste?

About 5000 ppm!!

The EPA figures its recommended levels based on a person drinking 2 liters of water per day. If you drink more than that, your exposure is greater.  I know I drink more than 2 liters on many days.  (It’s flippin’ hot here in the south)Today in society, about 40% of all dental patients have some form of fluorosis or evidence of excess fluoride intake, dentists say.  Does that mean 40% of all dental patients are at increased risk of bone fractures as adults?  It’s quite possible. (buy your Boniva stock now!)

The current CDC’s website on fluoride safety states:

 The weight of the peer-reviewed scientific evidence does not support an association between water fluoridation and any adverse health effect or systemic disorder, including an increased risk for…. bone fracture.

But the current EPA’s website states in contradiction:

 Adults exposed to excessive consumption of fluoride over a lifetime may have increased likelihood of bone fractures, and may result in effects on bone leading to pain and tenderness.

and then there’s:

Based on the data evaluated in this risk assessment, EPA concludes that it is likely that some children 8 and younger are exposed to too much fluoride.
(according to recent dental estimates, it’s 40%…that’s more than just “some”)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “regulates the amount of fluoride that may be present in public water supplies to protect against fluoride’s adverse health effects.”  There wouldn’t be any adverse health effects from too much if it wasn’t added in the first place.

The EPA states that fluoride is everywhere, and if it wasn’t safe, we would see adverse effects. They state it’s in tea, milk sugar, potatoes etc. and now that toothpastes and mouthwashes have fluoride, the levels added to water can be reduced.  If it’s everywhere, why does it need to be added to our water at all?

The EPA states that “many countries have also adopted fluoride additives to the water supply”, Argentina (21%), Australia (61%), Brazil (41%), Canada (43%), Chile (40%), Colombia (80%), Israel (75%), Malaysia (70%), New Zealand (61%), and Singapore (100%).  Of the Western European countries, the Republic of Ireland (73%), Spain (10%), and the United Kingdom (10%) as well.

But they don’t tell you that only 13 countries still participate. Most have stopped because of public skepticism about the safety of the program.

On the EPA’s site they admit there are “research gaps regarding the effects of long-term exposure to increased levels of fluoride.”  If there are research gaps shouldn’t they be investigated before you have everyone in the country drinking it?

The CDC and the EPA have a goal to get 75% of the entire country drinking fluorinated water. (it is currently in the mid 60%)

Is water fluoride safe?

Drinking lots of water? Are you helping or hurting your health?


How can I get rid of the fluoride in my water?

The only way to rid your tap water of fluoride is by distilling it or reverse osmosis (reverse osmosis in a home could run about $5000 – $10,000.  An addition for drinking water alone runs $200-$300)  Charcoal filters do nothing.

Then there’s bottled water. The FDA says bottled water can contain up to 1.4 mg/L of fluoride.  That’s more than the EPA currently recommends for tap water.  And there’s really no way of knowing how much fluoride is in your bottled water when you buy it.

What’s my fluoride tap water level?

If you live in the USA, you can click here  to look up your county’s water quality report.  I just looked at mine, and fluoride is listed as a “contaminant” right alongside lead.  The level was 1.02 mg/L which is higher than the new standards of 0.7 mg/L. I’m not happy.  But since the EPA  only recommends and does not enforce, there’s nothing I can do other than dig a well.

Check to see where your state falls in the fluoride chart.

Conclusion

Fact:  Fluoride reduces the amount of cavities in teeth at certain levels, but we don’t know what the lowest level to be effective is.

Fact: We are getting enough fluoride in our daily intake of other foods, and the environment. See this study.

Fact:  Fluoride accumulates over time in your body’s system, and the longterm effects of this chemical has never been studied.

Fact:  Regular moderate levels, like those seen across the country, can cause increased risk of bone fractures and crippling skeletal fluorosis involving bone deformities, pain and immobility in adults.

Fact:  40% of children show evidence of too much fluoride intake based on the incidence of 40% fluorosis or browning of the teeth.

Fact:  Federal agencies can only recommend fluoride levels, they cannot enforce standards for safe levels.

Fact:  You do not have the freedom to choose to “opt out” of the country’s fluoride program unless you treat your water again when it enters your home.  Unlike the government’s program to put iodine in salt, I can’t choose not to drink water.

Fact:  The EPA’s “Safe Drinking Water Act” is a bunch of crap. According to their own standards, my water isn’t “safe” and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  How is that providing me with safe water?

Fact:  The EPA lists fluoride on its “contaminants” list right alongside uranium, lead and e.coli.  The government is intentionally adding a “contaminant” to your drinking water, and then monitoring “harmful levels” of the stuff.

Fact:   Fluoride toothpaste is toxic.  You should only use a pea sized amount when supervising children’s brushing. A child would die if they ingested the majority of a tube of toothpaste.  If I had small children, I would question the need for them using a fluoride toothpaste  if they are drinking the tap water daily and seeing their dentist regularly.

When your kids go to the dentist, do they really need an extra fluoride treatment? I say no. (…and I just deal with the looks I get from the hygienist with a smile.)

How do you like your water now?


References:

Dentists react to FDA’s fluoride recommendation 

EPA’s site on fluoride
CDC Health effects of fluoride 

CDC Community fluoride facts
News from the National Academies 
Original 1950 report on fluoride

The whole sorted fluoride story from start to finish



Categories: cancer, environmental hazards, health, health and safety, health and wellness, healthy living blogs, household chemicals

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26 replies

  1. Once again, thanks for the extensive information. Although my city does not add fluoride to the water, I have used a fluoride toothpaste (no more!) and have a fluoride treatment twice a year at the dentist (urged on me because our city does not have fluoridated water). Should I opt out? It’s something to think about — I’d rather deal with cavities than osteoporosis. Do you think this may be why so many more people are being diagnosed with osteoporosis (it seems to be the “disease du jour” — all these boomers who have drunk fluoridated water since the 50s are now showing up with weak bones).

    • I think that’s your choice.
      I think what bothers me the most is NOT having a choice. After my research I will definitely be switching to a fluoride-free toothpaste and looking into purchasing gallons of distilled water ($0.99) for drinking. Distilled water has no minerals in it, but with my diet, I know I consume plenty of sodium, magnesium, and calcium (the main minerals in water) and let’s face it, you’re not going to get your RDA of daily minerals from water anyway!
      This “being informed” is hard work!

  2. It is scary to know the fact, sometimes. Such a great research! Thank you for sharing information. The scary thing is that we don’t have freedom to remove fluoride from our water. Buying water and drinking tap water is just the same thing and which would we choose??

  3. The best way to reduce your fluoride intake is through political activism to get legislators to stop adding it in the first place. Even if your own water is not fluoridated, your food supply is – as so much of it is made in fluoridated areas. Fluoride is not on the lables. Foods naturally high in fluoride are tea, ocean fish, non-organic grape juices.

    Even all infant formula, even organic, has some fluoride.

    Fluoridation Opposition is Scientific, Respectable & Growing

    More than 3,700 professionals (including 322 dentists) urge that fluoridation be stopped citing scientific evidence that ingesting fluoride is ineffective at reducing tooth decay and has serious health risks. See statement: http://www.fluoridealert.org/professionals-statement.aspx

    NYC Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr introduced legislation to stop fluoridation in New York City .

    • Yes, I agree with getting involved on the local level, which I will definitely look into. It doesn’t look like the proposal went very far in NY does it? People have been told for so many years that fluoride is GOOD, that it’s hard to change minds.
      Thanks very much for taking the time to comment!

  4. Many New York State Communities have stopped or rejected fluoridation because of citizen activism including the capital city, Albany.

    Others in NYC are, Elba, Levittown, Canton, Corning, Johnstown, Oneida, Carle Place, Rockland County, Suffolk County, Western Nassau County, Beacon, Poughkeepsie, Riverhead, Central Bridge Water District, Homer, Ithaca, Rouses Point and Amsterdam.

    Six more NYC council members have sign onto Vallone’s proposed legislation and Vallone is planning a fluoridation opposition rally at City Hall this fall.

    NYC also has created legislation to ask the NYS Dept of Health to stop fluoridation state-wide.

    The first step in effecting change is to believe it can be done. And it can.

  5. You might doublecheck your timeline a bit. I’m just googling like everyone else, and maybe this is a tiny detail point, but proponents of fluoride love to pick this stuff apart. Colorado brownstain, which McKay discovered in 1901 (not 1931), had nothing to do with an aluminum factory – it was from high levels of fluoride occurring naturally in the water. (That doesn’t make it healthy, of course – it has to be removed there to a certain level to make it safe to drink.) The association with fluoride wasn’t made until 1931, though, where something similar was occurring in Bauxite, Arkansas. There *was* an Alcoa plant there. I do not know if the high fluoride levels there were naturally-occurring, or if they were a result of the aluminum company works. If you are able to discover that, I’d love to know.

    We use a reverse-osmosis system to remove fluoride (and chlorine) from our drinking water, but we know it is still absorbed through the skin. A whole-house filter just isn’t affordable for us, but would be the best route. Other than convincing the powers-that-be how foolhardy it is to toss uniform amounts of anything “medicinal” into something that goes to such a disparate sized/aged/exposed population, of course.

    • Laurie! Cut me some slack! It was not easy to squeeze 50 years of ‘fluoride folly” into one paragraph! :)

      I stand corrected and did adjust the dates in the post. This process of how fluoridation cam about is so complex, to say the least, with many “players” spanning decades and people working “under the table” with government and huge corporate involvement.
      And while it may be true that the fluoride content of the water in Bauxite may have caused naturally, there is some speculation that the plant may have been to blame as the mottled teeth were also noticed by dentists in Alcoa’s other plant location as well. (although this was never proven, yes)
      I thought it was interesting that ALCOA’s scientists were studying to see just how much fluoride one could ingest and not get any outward signs of fluoridation, I.E mottled teeth. Interesting too was the lab conducting all the research was funded by companies that produced fluoride waste.

      I have chlorine filters on all the showers and the tap water, but like you I just can’t afford the reverse osmosis system (perchance to dream…)
      Thanks very much for taking the time to comment! I appreciate it!

  6. What a well researched article. You may want to check into distilled water a bit more before using it for drinking. Using it occasionally may be ok, but it can strip out too many minerals from your body. We drank it as kids, and it wasn’t the best thing we ever did.

    You may also be interested in clinoptilolite, a naturally occurring substance that can remove heavy metals, radiation, chlorine and fluoride from your body in a safe manner.

    As far as toothpastes go, we have been using Dentarome and Dentarome Ultra for over 10 years now. No fluoride, no cavities, and white teeth! It even fixed a hole in my tooth from a previously filled cavity that I never had filled again. I still have the hole that I have to keep clean, but have no pain or infection — and that was 10 years ago that my filling fell out.

    • Thanks Gloria!
      I read articles on drinking distilled water and they were completely contradictory. I really think it depends on how much you drink etc. I will take your advice and keep researching until I find a definite answer.
      Had not heard of clinoptilolite….I will look into it. I love it when I learn from my readers…..
      Thanks for the tip on Dentarome I will surely give it a try!

  7. Sodium Fluoride is a highly toxic Chemical, period. It has no place in any part of a humans life.
    “SODIUM Fluoride is a TOXIC HAZARDOUS WASTE byproduct created during the production of Aluminum (the aluminum industry bought the “science” that put fluoride in our toothpaste & water), and by the fertilizer industry, which is typically hexafluorosilicic acid (industry smokestack SOOT) from aluminum (alcoa), fertilizer (made from OIL), and uranium mining (NUKES). The fertilizer industry outputs poisonous gases hydrogen fluoride and silicon tetrafluoride from their corporate smokestacks – water spray converts them into hexafluorosilicic acid. Sodium Fluoride currently being used for fluoridation comes from China, Mexico, USA, Belgium, and Japan. READ THE LABELS…” from this website:http://bestmeal.info/food/fluoridation.shtml
    Also some good info:http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC34385#Related_Chems
    Peace,
    http://ethnobotanist128.blogspot.com/

  8. yikes…I have known for a long time that Singapore adds flouride to our water, but I always imagined it was good for us. I must confess I don’t have any cavities although I eat loads of sweets, but my gums are very weak.

    These days I try to drink bottled water because the water we get today is purified from waste water (ugggh). Our government markets it as newater, but I think it tastes not too great.

  9. I appreciate your research on this subject, but I’m not entirely convinced fluoridated water is a government conspiracy. I do, however, use a reverse osmosis system in our home which removes fluoride and a whole host of other disgusting stuff (Exhibit A: http://minnesotatransplant.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/ill-just-have-water-hold-the-arsenic/). They do not cost $5,000-$10,000 — they cost $100 to $200 plus the cost of filters, which aren’t cheap but certainly within reach for the average suburban household.

    • Thanks for your input!
      “Government conspiracy” is not a term I used in the post. I just think it was a “government serendipity” and we, the consumers ended up the losers. As far as the cost of a reverse osmosis system the $5000 I was referring to was for a whole house system which would give you pure water for drinking but also cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and showering. Yes, the drinking only systems run a couple hundred dollars.
      Thanks very much for your comment!

  10. Wow, thanks for this thorough and enlightening information! I have been looking into the dangers of fluoride recently, and I’ve read several claims that fluoride is also a neurotoxin (that, on top of everything else). My husband and I no longer use fluoride toothpaste. We have been using Tom’s Natural Mint Toothpaste, and we both like it. I had not heard of Dentarome before, but I am going to look into this brand as well. Since we don’t use fluoride, my dentist (who is a holistic dentist) recommended Xylitol (naturally derived from birch tree bark) chewing gum, which can help with cavity prevention and can even reverse very early signs of tooth decay. There is a brand called Xylichew which we are about to try. I found it on Amazon.com in bulk. We had also looked into a whole-house filtration system but have not purchased one as of yet. It seems like the cost depends on the area in which you live, and at this point in time the cost would be somewhat prohibitive for us. I’ve also found that most drinking water filters (such as Brita filters) do not filter out the fluoride. Our solution for drinking water? We bought two 5-gallon jugs and now fill up with spring water from a local source about once a week. We use this water for drinking, our pets, and cooking. We both love it! You can check to see if there is a spring water source in your area by going to: findaspring.com. You can usually check the water quality of your spring source online, too. But if the statistics of your source have not yet been published, and you want some peace of mind, you can opt to buy a filter for the spring water (to filter out any possible bacterium). We checked our source, and the water quality is very high (among the highest in the world). So we opted not to use a filter since we want to benefit from all the minerals that naturally occur in the water. Also, I’ve read that it is very easy to absorb fluoride (and other contaminants) through the skin, so if there is concern about this, it is also important to install a shower filter. We have a shower filter now, but I’m not sure if it eliminates the fluoride. One step at a time! Anyhow, thanks so much for providing this helpful information! I have found your site to be informative, insightful, and entertaining! :) Best wishes, Karin.

  11. Hi again! I just looked up Dentarome Ultra and saw that it contains Xylitol! I’m definitely going to try this toothpaste. Thanks again for all the great resources.

  12. RE: Fact: Regular moderate levels, like those seen across the country, can cause increased risk of bone fractures and crippling skeletal fluorosis involving bone deformities, pain and immobility in adults.

    I thought that there was a case just this year of an Indian woman who had immigrated to an area that had fluoridated water and was drinking tea at a high concentration (not done in North America; 200 bags to a pitcher — I know, that’s crazy on it’s own), and she ended up with excess calcium spurs in her wrists, long bones and vertebrae. Basically, almost the opposite of fracture from weakness.

    Perhaps I’m a little biased as well. I was born without enamel on my teeth and live in Canada where water is scrutinized (Ontario having particularly high standards since we killed a couple of high school kids in Walkerton with bad water).

    Point being this; for my personal use I’d rather expose myself to fluoride in tap water than the hormone synthetics that are in the plastics that bottled water travels in. Nevermind the ecological cost of moving water on trucks around the country (or by boat from Fiji).

    Still, I like any thing that makes people think twice. Nicely put together.

  13. When I was a child in Sydney, Australia in the 1960s and 1970s I used to swallow the toothpaste after brushing. (Why? I really don’t know. For a smart child I was pretty stupid at times.) I only came to my senses at about 9 years old, by which time I’d ingested dozens of tubes of fluoride toothpaste in total. My two front teeth mottled – little white flecks – which disappeared when I stopped complementing my diet in that way. Because I’ve always been quite sedentary, I’ve never broken a bone … a lucky combination of laziness and stupidity, I suppose!

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