Water Health Educator - Promoting advocacy for access to clean water
Exposure: Fluoride

Fluoridation of Drinking Water
by Marlena Bludzien

Water fluoridation is a practice with growing opposition but yet little change in action throughout the country. The United States continues to artificially add fluoride to more than 70 percent of public water supplies even though 97 percent of developed countries do not participate in such a practice. Furthermore, some countries such as China, even take measures to reduce the levels of naturally occurring fluoride in their drinking water due to the negative effects it has on the health of the population.

Fluoride is a compound of fluorine with another element or group classified by the Food and Drug Administration as a drug “used to prevent or mitigate disease.” Fluoride is often found in tooth paste and dental hygiene products at it protects against tooth decay. The compound was first discovered in select drinking water reservoirs by dentists in the early 20 century when local patients had decreased levels of tooth decay than nearby areas.  Within a few decades, Grand Rapid, Michigan became the first town in the world to artificially fluoridate their drinking water as a form of medical treatment, although administered without any requirement of informed consent. One of the first problems with water fluoridation is that everyone is exposed, even though certain groups of people, such as children, elderly, the sick etc., are more susceptible to its dangers. Moreover, since there is no way on measuring the amount of water each person drinks, it is impossible to control the amounts of fluoride individuals ingest. This has become an increasingly large problem as now there are more sources of fluoride than in the beginning of the water fluoridation program in 1962. Such sources, besides fluoridated dental products, include drinks made with treated water, tea, certain deboned meats, and some foods with pesticide residues. With all of these different sources of fluoride we now are exposed to, there is no longer a need for such water fluoridation, and many people especially children are being overexposed.

Much of the real problem with such a water treatment is that there are many studies suggesting serious potential side effects and yet very little evidence proving its safety credibility. Such negative health consequences of fluoride is the damage it may have on the human brain. In fact, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed fluoride among the top 100 chemicals as having “substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.” There have been over one hundred animal experiments conducted showing how the chemical compound is linked to brain damage and some even show morphological organ changes (brain and kidney) with increased levels of aluminum in the brain. Further problems associated with fluoride include damage to the outside layer of bone which is important in protecting against fractures. Some findings date back to studies conducted as early at 1945 such as the Newburgh-Kingston trial. People with kidney disease are at a higher risk of bone defects as the fluoride accumulates in the blood and bone at higher levels since the kidneys are not able to functionally excrete the chemical from the body. These high levels of fluoride increase the risk of developing skeletal fluorosis, a debilitating bone disease caused by high levels of fluoride exposure. Osteosarcoma,  or bone cancer, is also an elevated risk among those exposed to fluoride as shown by numerous studies and reviews, such as those funded by the US government and the National Cancer Institute.

Water Fluoridation is an unnecessary practice that puts individuals in danger of numerous negative health effects. Not only does fluoridation raise concern over health problems but it also leads to environmental injustices among low income families who cannot afford to buy non-fluoridated. With such suggestions of strong potential hazards of fluoride treatment, more investigations and studies need to be conducted to provide robust evidence to end such a dangerous tradition.

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