Is Fluoride Bad for You? It’s Not Just in the Water

Fluoride - Dr. Axe

There are two sides to any story, and that is definitely true in the case of fluoride. Since being introduced into the public water supplies of much of the U.S. (and several other countries) in the 1960s, a consistent debate has existed on whether or not fluoride is truly safe as a water additive or dental health product.

It’s more complex than you might believe at first. On the one side, many public health organizations hail fluoride as a near-miracle for dental health and insist there are no questions or contrary pieces of evidence whatsoever.

For example, the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) states on their website, “Because of its contribution to the large decline in cavities in the United States since the 1960s, CDC named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.” (1) The American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatrics agree, and have since the beginning of public water fluoridation in the mid 1900s. (2, 3, 4)

Pretty convincing, right?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple.

The controversy over fluoride in water has been the main point of contention for anti-fluoridationists for the last several decades, since it was introduced widely in 1960. (5) Is it just kooks and conspiracy theorists that are continuing the pointless complaining about a public health victory?

Quite the opposite proves to be true after a bit of digging. A growing body of research has existed since before fluoride was ever approved for dental use finding it has the ability to cause long-lasting negative health effects in various bodily systems. (6)


What Is Fluoride?

“Fluoride” refers to any compound containing a fluorine ion. Sporting a chemical symbol of “F” and an atomic number of 9, fluorine is one of the well-recognized elements on the periodic table. As a pure gas, fluorine is “the most reactive and electronegative of all the elements.” It has extremely damaging effects to any living organism with which it comes into contact. (7)

In nature, calcium fluoride (CaF2) is found in soil and water. Spring water in areas without industries that regularly use fluoride generally contains about .01-.03 ppm (parts per million, also known as milligrams per liter or mg/L) of calcium fluoride naturally, while seawater is closer to 1.3 ppm. (8) These amounts vary greatly depending on location — in some parts of the world, calcium fluoride is found up to 10–20 ppm in water supplies, which is universally recognized as an unsafe ingestible amount of the compound.

Despite the insistence of various organizations to tell the public that this same compound is what’s added to their drinking water, this isn’t actually true. Calcium fluoride is not well-absorbed into the body, whereas sodium fluoride (NaF) is. This chemical compound does not occur in nature and was generally considered industrial toxic waste until 1950, when it was announced as a new dental health initiative.

1945 marked the start of studies in several cities across the U.S. to compare the prevalence of cavities (dental caries) between children and adults drinking fluoridated or unfluoridated water. According to the CDC, dental caries were reduced 50–70 percent in fluoridated communities during the 13–15 years of these “studies.” (9)

However, no data is available for the amount of cavity reduction experienced by the “control” communities in these experiments. As dental health has improved steadily in both fluoridated and unfluoridated communities of the U.S., this data would be very worthwhile but, unfortunately, does not exist or is not readily available to the public. (10)

As of 2014, about 74.4 percent of people in the U.S. with community water systems were provided with fluoridated water. (11) This is a 0.2 drop in the previous 2012 statistic, resulting partly from community efforts of citizens urging their leaders to remove fluoride from public drinking water.

Unlike you may expect, though, the fluoride used in your drinking water is not calcium fluoride nor sodium fluoride. Now, in 90 percent of our fluoridated water, it’s a compound known as hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFS or FSA). HFS is a by-product of the process used to create phosphate fertilizers that used to be considered toxic waste and is now (more than likely) an additive in your family’s water. (12)

In a petition submitted in 2013 by a former EPA scientist, J. William Hirzy, Ph.D., and colleagues requested the EPA to discontinue the use of HFS in public water due to the proven adverse effects it may have on human health, including issues via the presence of arsenic. (13)

That’s correct: The additive used to improve your dental health also contains arsenic, which, incidentally, is allowed in measures of .010 ppm in water by EPA standards, although the MCLG (maximum contaminant level goal) is zero, due to arsenic’s cancer-causing impact. (14, 15)

Not only does hydrofluorosilicic acid contain arsenic, it also leaches lead from piping at much greater rates than sodium fluoride, although both compounds have this effect. (16) Lead crosses the blood-brain barrier — as well as to unborn children in pregnant mothers — and has no known safe level of contamination that won’t cause harmful effects, such as cancer. (17)

Is fluoride safe for you?

According to the CDC and other governmental bodies, there is only one known cosmetic issue that occurs from too much fluoride in water or from other sources: fluorosis (which I’ll discuss a little later). (18) In another section of the CDC’s website, they provide a toxicology guide for fluorines, fluoride and hydrogen fluoride. This guide sets a “minimal risk level” of fluoride at .05 mg/kg/day for chronic exposure, which defines the amount of fluoride that would cause issues when chronically ingested. (19)

Doing the math: This means that a 160-pound person drinking an optimal amount of water (80 ounces) from a fluoridated source would ingest 1.66 milligrams of fluoride from that water alone. With the CDC’s given guideline of .05 mg/kg/day, that same person should not consistently consume such high levels of fluoride or may suffer adverse effects.

Not only is that far too close a margin, in my opinion, but this metric doesn’t consider the additional fluoride from toothpaste, mouthwash, food and drinks that the same person would also regularly ingest. It also is considering a full-grown adult who understands how to not swallow toothpaste, which can’t always be said for a small child brushing his teeth with fluoridated toothpaste with 1,000 times the fluoride as tap water per volume.

The adverse effects this includes should just be that one “cosmetic” problem, though, right? Not quite — the CDC has finally included a prevalence of “increased bone fractures in the elderly” related to drinking fluoridated water after they could no longer avoid the evidence. This is not listed on the community fluoridation material they distribute.

A growing number of professionals have doubted the safety of water fluoridation in its current state for many decades. This problem exists, in part, because the amount of long-term, high-quality, unbiased research available is limited to non-existent.

For example, the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (a British governmental body) looked at the evidence about the carcinogenic potential of fluoride. Their results were tentative at best, and they stated at the end of their compilation that, “Given the level of interest surrounding the issue of public water fluoridation, it is surprising to find that little high quality research has been undertaken.” (20)

In 2006, the National Research Council conducted a review entitled “Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.” Their research led them to a few conclusions about the safety of fluoride according to available data at that time, such as: (21)

  • Athletes, outdoor workers and people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes insipidus and poor kidney function are more sensitive to water’s fluoride content.
  • Infants and children are daily exposed to fluoride three to four times more than adults on a body weight comparison basis.
  • Even with the “insufficient” data regarding fluoride’s impact on the central nervous system, they felt the results of the existing warranted more investigation.
  • They acknowledged effects to the endocrine system caused by fluoride, although they referred to them as “subclinical” and not “adverse,” but agree that they deserve more research, particularly because these issues may impact the sexual development of children consuming fluoride within the US’s current guidelines.
  • They point out the major gaps in the scientific evidence regarding fluoride and make several recommendations for future study focus.

After completing this review, John Doull, the committee’s chair was interviewed by a journalist about the report. He concluded that the opinion of the council was that water fluoridation did play a part in increasing the dental health of communities when first implemented, but that the presence of fluoride in so many foods and other products today should give pause to whether or not our children are getting “too much of a good thing.” (22) Doull continued,

But when we look 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.

Another expert who spoke out about concerns of the safety of fluoride is John Colquhoun, a dentist in New Zealand who was appointed to Principal Dental Officer of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. Dr. Colquhoun, once passionately pro-fluoridation, re-examined the facts and studies available on fluoridation and wrote an explanation of his staunchly anti-fluoridation stance in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine in 1997.

He explains that this dedication to fluoride as the savior of dental health, particularly for low-income families who do not receive regular dental care, is based, in his opinion, on a determination to “bend over backwards to explain away new evidence,” specifically evidence opposing the common view. Colquhoun claims that flawed studies contributed to this issue greatly, but that when he was presented with the evidence of the decline of tooth decay in totally non-fluoridated communities, his conclusion was that fluoride actually does far more harm (to the teeth and other parts of the body) than it ever does good. (23, 24)

As with most things, this view is opposed by many. Herschel S. Horowitz, DDS, MPH, a former Chief of the Community Programs Section of the National Institute of Dental Research, wrote a rebuttal to John Colquhoun’s letter. He concluded that the letter contained poor references to junk science and remains convinced that community water fluoridation is totally safe. (25)

 

What is fluoride? - Dr. Axe

 

What does fluoride do to the body?

I’ll outline the major dangers of fluoride below, but first, let me give you a little information on what fluoride is known to do once it enters the body.

When ingested, fluoride passes both the blood-brain barrier, meant to protect the brain and nervous system from damage of foreign invaders, and can pass through placenta into the body of an unborn baby. (26, 27)

Fluoride bioaccumulates, meaning that not all of it is metabolized and/or excreted by your body’s natural waste disposal. About 50 percent of the fluoride you ingest through water or other food sources is excreted by urine, while the other half tends to accumulate in the calcified areas of the body, such as bones and teeth. Alkaline urine better removes fluoride from the body than acidic urine. (28)

In addition to bones and teeth, fluoride builds up in the pineal gland, a hormone gland responsible for the secretion of melatonin to manage circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. A study to determine the concentration of fluoride in the pineal gland discovered that, by the time the adults in the study had died in old age, the calcium-to-fluoride ratio of that gland was actually higher than in bone. (29) This suggests fluoride plays a part in the calcification of this gland, which would lead to poor melatonin production over time.

Because it leaches lead from water pipes, fluoride has been suspected to lead to higher levels of lead in the bloodstream. Research from Dartmouth University, published in Neurotoxicology, confirmed this theory in 2000, finding significantly higher lead levels in children exposed to water fluoridated by HFS. The scientists claimed this rendered the hypothesis “null” that there is no difference between sodium fluoride and HFS and that this could lead to concerning levels of lead, particularly in children with additional risk factors, like those who live in older homes. (30)

Since it passes the blood-brain barrier, some research has also focused on the impact of fluoride accumulation in the brain. Scientists in India conducted an animal study in 2014 on these effects (using sodium fluoride, not HFS) and found that: (31)

Increase in the NaF concentration resulted in increased fluoride deposition in brain tissue. This increased fluoride content led to increased levels of certain neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, histamine, serotonin and glutamate and decreased levels of norepinephrine, acetylcholine and dopamine in a dose-dependent manner.

Another interesting fact you may want to be aware of is that rats, like those in the above study, are not as sensitive to fluoride absorption as humans. They must be given significantly higher amounts of the chemical to reach the comparative level of fluoride in their blood (plasma) as a typical person drinking fluoridated water and ingesting other sources of fluoride.

Fluoride also inhibits various enzymes throughout the body responsible for normal processes of your metabolic energy systems. (32)

Is fluoride good for your teeth?

Fluoride is a part of the process by which teeth demineralize and remineralize each day. When you eat and drink certain foods, the mineral on your teeth is stripped by small amounts, and using fluoride topically helps to remineralize and calcify teeth, making them stronger and less susceptible to dental caries (cavities).

Because many families rely on tap water for the most cost-effective method of water intake, fluoride was introduced to public water supplies to prevent cavities in children who may not have good access to regular dental care. According to research from various sources, fluoridation does decrease the incidence of dental caries and the number of teeth affected by these issues, although many of these studies are defined as “low” or “moderate” quality at best when reviewed. (33, 34, 35)

The role of fluoride in dental health was discovered, somewhat by accident, by a dentist named Frederick McKay. McKay documented reports of what was called “Colorado Brown Stain,” a discoloration on the teeth seen in children who grew up in Colorado Springs, CO, and also noted that teeth with this discoloration were more resistant to decay. Subsequent analysis of similar findings led to the realization that water naturally high in fluoride had a teeth-strengthening effect, although it may also result in mottled teeth.

Now known as “dental fluorosis,” this condition is prevalent mostly among children under the age of eight who are not completely rid of their baby teeth. Understood to be mostly a cosmetic problem, fluorosis does not always result in mottled adult teeth (although it can, and is irreversible). A more serious form of this problem that occurs mostly in third-world countries with extremely high levels of naturally-occurring fluoride in water is crippling skeletal fluorosis, marked by rigidity of bones and increasing inability to complete a full range of motion. (36)

Many people consider dental fluorosis to be a problem that may only result in a bit of embarrassment or social anxiety; however, I think it may be an outward symptom of a much more systemic problem, as I’ll explain when we look at the potential dangers of fluoride.

Dental fluorosis has continued to affect a great deal of the U.S. population and rates continue to rise, according to CDC statistics. This is most likely due to the vast number of fluoride sources now available to the public. (37)

When comparing communities with and without fluoridated water, there does seem to be a trend in some areas for fluoridated communities to have less cavities. However, this gap is closing rapidly. (38)

Interestingly, though, the ingestion of fluoride may just not be the answer to the need for healthy teeth. The trend seen in countries widely using fluoridated water in public systems have seen a decline in cavities, yes, but that trend is almost identically matched in similar countries who have never practiced public water fluoridation. (39)

Dr. Arvid Carlsson of Sweden, a Nobel Prize winner, has stated publicly that it’s possible and even probable that fluoride can benefit teeth when applied topically but that it is “against modern pharmacology” to think there’s anything beneficial about ingesting the substance, particularly because the disparity in how much a single person consumes is so vast. (40)

The CDC conducted a study between 1986–1987 of dental caries in children across a number of cities in the U.S. They found, most fascinatingly, that fluoridated communities did, indeed, have a lower number of cavities per child than unfluoridated communities but barely — 2 versus 2.1, when comparing internal quality of teeth (the supposed reason fluoride must be ingested). (41) This incredibly small difference is yet another reason it does not make sense to me that our public water supplies are still “enhanced” with fluoride. (42)

The UK Department of Health still concludes, however, that the fluoridation of water, milk and salt (the latter two are not fluoridated in the U.S.) is the best and safest way to prevent dental caries. (43) This is echoed by the American Dental Association in their public marketing piece, “Fluoridation Facts.” (44)

Is fluoride bad for you?

I believe fluoride is an unnecessary chemical that should not be in public water supplies, and that it has the potential to damage your body.

Many experts have been concerned about the bioaccumulation of fluoride due to the overwhelming availability of fluoride in dental products, food, drinks and water, including a group of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) union members who have urged the EPA to change their stance on water fluoridation and a group of almost 5,000 medical professionals across several countries who have signed the Fluoride Action Network’s petition to end water fluoridation. (45, 46)

Because of the dangers of fluoride toxicity, the FDA began requiring a warning on all fluoride toothpastes manufactured after April 1997 to contact the nearest poison control center if the toothpaste is ingested because this “drug” may cause adverse effects. (47) Remember, toothpaste contains somewhere around 1,000 times more fluoride per volume than fluoridated water.

As I mentioned earlier, one concern held by certain people is the hazards of using silicofluorides (HSF) to fluoridate water, rather than sodium fluoride, the substance which has been used in virtually all fluoride safety research. (48) The petition listed above to remove silicofluorides from drinking water points out that fluoridated water using HSF contains 100 times more arsenic than fluoridated water using sodium fluoride at 0.7 ppm (the current standard).

Whatever the source, the ingestion of large amounts of fluoride is not good for you. While it may offer certain teeth strengthening benefits when used topically, I don’t think the benefits outweigh the very serious long-term costs.


Sources of Fluoride You Probably Don’t Know About

Fluoride isn’t just in toothpaste and tap water. If you’re trying to avoid fluoride, you should be aware that it is found in the following, both naturally and unnaturally:

Foods (49)

  • Dill pickles
  • Carbonated beverages (sodas)
  • Bottled fruit juices
  • Canned tomato products
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Asparagus
  • Canned beets
  • White potatoes
  • Canned corn
  • Radishes
  • Canned sauerkraut
  • White rice
  • Celery
  • Peach nectar
  • Onion rings
  • Peach and apricot nectars
  • Certain baby foods
  • Canned soups
  • Teas
  • Some alcoholic beverages
  • Dry mix desserts
  • Boxed cereals

Dental Products (50)

  • Fluoride toothpaste
  • Fluoride mouthwash
  • Fluoride gels (self-applied)
  • Fluoride gels (professionally applied)
  • Fluoride varnishes
  • Fluoride supplements (usually prescribed to children in unfluoridated water areas)

Pesticides (51)

  • Cryolite (found in many grape products, including wine, and also allowed to be added to about two dozen different GMO fruit and vegetable crops)
  • Sulfuryl fluoride (a fumigation product in food processing factories)

Other Sources (52, 53, 54)

  • Teflon pans
  • Medications (anesthetics, cipro, flecainide, niflumic acid and voriconazole)
  • Workplace exposure

Many people trying to reduce their fluoride intake opt for bottled water, which does come with its own set of concerns but generally does not contain fluoride. The FDA requires bottled water containing fluoride to be labeled as such. (55)

 

How to avoid fluoride - Dr. Axe


6 Researched Dangers of Fluoride

1. May cause damage to the brain and central nervous system

One major cause of concern when ingesting fluoride is the potential it may have to negatively affect the central nervous system (CNS). A famed study by Phyllis Mullenix was one of the first occasions on which this CNS effect was quantified. In fact, you couldn’t discover any arguments on the pros and cons of fluoridation that does not include Mullenix’ discovery.

This well-designed study, using the latest technology available at the time, was conducted in the mid-1990s on rats. Emphasis on the study came from reports from China that high levels of fluoride in drinking water (multiples of any current levels in the U.S.) had been seen to affect the CNS preceding skeletal fluorosis. The animals were given varying levels of fluoride at multiple stages of development and compared with controls.

Mullenix discovered that fluoride treatment during fetal, weanling and adult development all had pronounced behavioral effects, even when the plasma (blood) levels of fluoride did not seem to be all that elevated. Prenatal exposures seemed to result in hyperactivity symptoms, whereas weanling/adult exposures both resulted in “cognitive deficits.” (56)

Another brain-related danger of fluoride is the potential that it may result in lower IQ’s. Studies have found varying degrees of IQ disparity, from a 2.5-point drop to a 7-point difference in children exposed to fluoridated water versus those who are not. (57, 58)

The meta-analysis that reflected a 7-point change in IQ was conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. Although the results were highly suggestive, the scientists were quick to state that the studies they examined were not conclusive enough to draw any sort of cause-and-effect relationship and, in some cases, reflected fluoride levels in water far above what anyone in the U.S. is generally exposed to. (59)

However, they were intrigued enough by their results to begin a pilot study in China to garner more information. This is the first of what is said to be many follow-up studies regarding fluoride and intelligence. In the 51 human study participants, it was found that moderate-to-severe dental fluorosis was correlated with poorer scores on two types of intelligence tests. (60)

Some are also concerned that the combination of aluminum and fluoride exposure might be a contributing factor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. (61) In animal studies, rats given sodium fluoride (NaF) had significantly higher tissue aluminum levels and “alterations of cerebrovascular and neuronal integrity.” (62) As there is a large amount of evidence to suggest that aluminum plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s, it’s an avenue worth looking into deeper. (63, 64)

Since fluoride crosses the blood-brain barrier, there are a number of effects it could have that are currently unknown. However, we do know, according to studies listed above, that fluoride might disrupt circadian rhythms and does alter the levels of certain neurotransmitters that are vital to healthy brain chemistry.

2. Has been associated with moderate cancer risk

Another hotly debated potential risk of fluoride is its potential to influence the risk of certain cancers. (65)

A 1977 study comparing the 10 largest fluoridated and unfluoridated cities at that time found an increase in cancer-related deaths of 18 percent in the fluoridated cities compared to those that weren’t, equating to about 3,000 more cancer deaths per 10 million persons in 1969, the studied year. (66)

A similar study, published earlier in 1977, detailed a review of cancer death rates over 17 years, between 1952–1969. No difference in the rates was discovered in persons up to 44 years of age between fluoridated and unfluoridated communities. In those between 45–64 years of age, an additional 1,500 cancer deaths per 10 million people was recorded in fluoridated cities, and the number rose to 3,500 more cancer deaths per 10 million people when observing those over 65. (67)

One review of cancer instances between 1978–1992 found that:

Cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, colon and rectum, hepato-biliary and urinary organs were positively associated with FD [fluorinated drinking water]. This was also the case for bone cancers in male, in line with results of rat experiments. Brain tumors and T-cell system Hodgkin’s disease, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, melanoma of the skin and monocytic leukaemia were also correlated with FD.

In that study, four types of cancers were actually correlated with a decreased risk in persons exposed to fluoridated water. (68)

Of particular interest in the fluoride debate is the instances of osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. A relatively small study was published in 1993 finding a 6.9 times increased risk of osteosarcoma among males under 20 years of age in the most fluoridated parts of a 3-county area. (69)

The Harvard School of Dental Medicine also conducted a study about this risk and found similar results of an increased risk for young males of osteosarcoma when drinking fluoridated water. (70)

However, other follow-up studies have found no link or at least no significant increase in osteosarcoma cases between fluoridated and unfluoridated communities. (71, 72, 73)

3. Could increase risk of bone fractures

Unlike what was originally assumed, it seems the ingestion of fluoride does not have a positive impact on bone health, and may actually have a pronounced negative effect.

A study conducted in Mexico found an increase in bone fractures and major tooth damage in children exposed to fluoridated water. (74)

Other studies have found an increase in hip fracture risk among the elderly when consistently drinking water fluoridated at 1 ppm. (75) Other sources find no link between fluoridation and bone fractures. (76)

It’s true that the rate of hip fractures related to osteoporosis has increased in the elderly over the same period of time as the dawn of water fluoridation, but there is not yet evidence to suggest this could be attributed in any way to fluoride, as the causative factors behind such a disease are vast and not usually just one toxin or risk factor. (77)

4. Associated with hypothyroidism

Possibly related to the association between fluoride and hormonal function is the evidence that fluoride may be linked to hypothyroidism. In a study comparing fluoridated and unfluoridated areas of the U.K., researchers discovered that those living in unfluoridated areas were almost two times less likely to develop hypothyroidism. (78)

5. May interfere with sexual development

Remember that fluoride has been found to collect in the pineal gland? This may have further-reaching effects than just the interference with circadian rhythms. A 1997 study using gerbils discovered that fluoride was associated with faster sexual development in the females in the study. (79)

While these results haven’t been tested further in humans, it could be a very important point, as early puberty may possibly lead to issues ranging from short stature to an increased risk of breast cancer.

6. Associated with diabetes risks

As diabetes diagnoses are at an all time high, a great deal of research is focused on the ways we can reduce the impact of this reversible condition. (80) A literature review of the connection between fluoride and diabetes, conducted by Dr. Geoff Pain, an Australian chemistry specialist, left the scientist in no doubt of the results. Pain stated, (81)

There is strong evidence that fluoride causes diabetes … Diabetics are a “sensitive subpopulation” or “vulnerable group” and no attempt has been made by Australian health authorities to warn diabetics about fluoride toxicity or protect them from harmful exposure.

However, this review does not equate to convincing proof that diabetes truly is caused by fluoride exposure. While it warrants further investigation, another study found that low levels of fluoride, like those found in water in the U.S., actually helps to improve insulin resistance and aids in glucose homeostasis. (82)


How to Detox Your Body of Fluoride

The best way to protect yourself begins with staying informed. For instance, do you know if your community fluoridates its water? The CDC offers a searchable map to find out whether or not your local public water is fluoridated and at what rate (the currently recommended volume is 0.7 ppm, with a top limit of 4 ppm). (83) The county I live in fluoridates its water at 0.7 ppm.

Once y0u know you’re being exposed to fluoride in tap water, and at what rate, what measures can you take to detox your body?

Eat alkaline: An alkaline diet, designed to balance the internal pH of your body, is one of your best lines of defense in fluoride detoxification. While you excrete 50 percent, on average, of the fluoride you ingest, you can drive that percentage up by maintaining an alkaline environment. Alkaline diets rely a lot on plant proteins and raw fruits and vegetables to help the body rid itself of harmful substances.

Try tamarind tea: Research has found that the popular Indian beverage, tamarind tea, can help your body to detox fluoride from your system. (84) It’s not the easiest tea to find, but might be worth ordering online if you’re concerned about your fluoride exposure.

Increase your selenium intake: A rat study suggests selenium supplementation can help to reduce or reverse the effects of fluoride on the brain. (85) This does not necessarily mean this impact extends to human, but foods high in selenium are also good for your thyroid, heart and may reduce your risk of cancer, so incorporating those foods definitely isn’t going to hurt.

Exercise: That’s right, one of the benefits of exercise may be fluoride detox. A 2013 study in Argentina discovered plasma fluoride levels decreased in rats exposed to moderate exercise versus those who did not exercise. The rats also had reduced insulin resistance, leading the researchers to suggest daily physical exercise may help to avoid the negative effects of fluoride on glucose metabolism. (86)


Alternatives to Fluoridated Water

In addition to detoxifying my system of fluoride, it’s also important to reduce future exposure. There are some methods you can use to protect yourself and your family from excess fluoride.

Eat organic: Many pesticides used on food crops are fluoride-based, such as cryolite. Buying certified organic foods means you aren’t exposing yourself to these pesticides. In addition, the more processed a food is, the more fluoride it’s likely to contain, because industrial food-making involves using fluoridated water. You can also reference the USDA National Fluoride Database to verify what foods you’re eating that tend to contain significant amounts of fluoride. (87)

Avoid fluoride while nursing children: Fluoride has been found to transfer to infants via breast milk. (88) To make sure you’re protecting your child from early fluoride exposure, extra precaution should be taken during this sensitive time to avoid fluoride.

Purchase a (specific) water filter: Unlike what you might expect, not all water filtration systems work to reduce or eliminate fluoride. However, there are three types that you can utilize in your home that will filter out fluoride: reverse osmosis, deionizers (using ion-exchange resins) and activated alumina. Activated carbon filters, like the typical brands you might see advertised for the home, do not filter fluoride. One thing to remember when filtering water is that some methods, like steam distillation, might remove fluoride but also remove much of what makes water so beneficial to your health.

Find fluoride-free toothpaste and mouthwash: Especially if you have youngsters in the home who may be apt to swallow toothpaste, you can protect them from fluoride exposure by using unfluoridated dental products instead of the now-popular fluoride options. Although there may be some dental benefits to the topical use of fluoride in these products, it may be your preference to avoid it altogether.

Use alternative water sources: It is unfortunate to see the dangers that both tap and bottled water pose, but various people are trying to do something to correct this problem. For example, many communities can take advantage of a water delivery service — just be sure to double-check the water has been filtered to remove fluoride. Another option for some people is the much newer option of boxed water, which doesn’t present many of the risks of bottled water and is also absent fluoride.

Take action in your community: I mentioned earlier that the number of fluoridated communities actually decreased in the U.S. from 2012–2014, largely due to people taking action to tell their local leaders they no longer wanted to fluoridate their community water. Communities around the globe are taking this action. (89) As you become more informed, don’t be afraid to use your voice to let your leaders know the dangers of fluoridation.


Final Thoughts

Fluoride is a complex topic for many concerned about their health because of the opposing views among much of the world on the benefits and dangers of fluoride. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, a few things become clear when the research is revealed, namely, that the issue of fluoride is far from settled and that this chemical is very likely a health hazard when consumed regularly in large amounts, as much of America does.

When you apply fluoride to your teeth in the form of toothpaste or mouthwash, certain benefits might come to light, such as stronger teeth. However, these benefits seem to be overstated at best.

Fluoride is commonly found in food products, some medications and other sources. Scientific evidence leads me to believe the dangers of fluoride probably include central nervous system damage, potential cancer risk, an increased risk of bone fractures, thyroid dysfunction, sexual development disturbances and an increased risk of diabetes and related complications.

If you’ve decided to detox your (and possibly your family’s) body from fluoride, start by eating an alkaline diet, which is clinically shown to increase longevity. Selenium supplementation, tamarind tea and exercise are also fluoride detoxers.

Stay informed — check the CDC’s website for your community’s fluoridation practices and take action if that’s an option you have. As much as you are able, purchase food certified organic and consider drinking fluoride-filtered water via water delivery or proper in-home filtration.

Above all, remember that these effects are cumulative. It would be virtually impossible to avoid all sources of fluoride at all times, but by following these guidelines, you will greatly decrease your exposure to this pesky substance and, subsequently, your risk of toxic side effects.

Additional Resources

Understanding the role of fluoride in the human body and the question of how you may want to deal with these questions in your own family are complex issues. A large amount of research and history exists about fluoride and the water fluoridation controversy, more than I can include in this one piece, so I have included additional resources below for you to examine so that you can make informed choices.

* Please note: some of the below links are duplicates of reference links in the above text.

The chemical composition of fluoride

An overview of the water fluoridation controversy (Wikipedia)

CDC on Fluoridation

The American Dental Association on Fluoridation

Campaign for Dental Health on Fluoridation

A systematic review of the efficacy and safety of fluoridation — UK Department of Public Health

History of Fluoridation (CDC) — A detailed history of the process leading to community water fluoridation in the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions about Fluoridation (CDC)

Current Fluoridation Statistics in the US (CDC) — The most up-to-date information about the number of communities currently given fluoridated water.

Fluoridated Communities (CDC) — An up-to-date listing of communities with publicly fluoridated water in the US, searchable by location.

Department of Health and Human Services Action — On January 13, 2011, the DHHS took action to reduce the recommended fluoride content in public drinking water to 0.7 ppm, changing the standard of 0.7-1.2 ppm previously given.

“Fluoridation Facts” — A breakdown of the facts and myth surrounding fluoridation as defined by the American Dental Association.

“The Fluoride Debate” — A response to the ADA’s “Fluoridation Facts” booklet, including the history of the debate over fluoride, answers to each of the ADA’s question in “Fluoridation Facts” and a large amount of additional information.

The Fluoride Deception — This is the full text of the book by Christopher Bryson exposing much of the hidden political issues behind the development of fluoridation, including the experiences of Phyllis Mullenix and various other scientists who have been silenced in their fight to fight fluoridation.

The Mullenix Study — Dr. Phyllis Mullenix conducted a groundbreaking study in the mid-90’s regarding the effects of fluoride on the central nervous system of rats. She was terminated from Forsyth, the company employing her and sponsoring the study, three days after submitting her paper for peer review (which it passed). Mullenix sued Forsyth for wrongful termination and received an unknown out-of-court settlement.

The Mullenix Presentation [Part One | Part Two | Part Three] — This is her original presentation of the completed study, now famed as the disastrous end to her career in research.

Interview with Dr. John Colquhoun — Dr. Colquhoun, a New Zealand dentist, was an avid supporter of fluoridation and appointed at one time as the Principal Dental Officer in Auckland, the largest city in the country. He reversed his position on the fluoridation controversy before his death in 1999 and describes in detail here the reasons that led him to do so.

Petition by American University chemist addressed to EPA to remove HFS from the public drinking supply — J. William Hirzy, Ph.D., submitted this petition with various co-petitioners to encourage the discontinuation of HFS from the drinking supply based on scientific evidence of its health detriments, including those via HFS’ arsenic content.

Interview with J. William Hirzy, Ph.D. on Fluoride

Lawsuit filed against the EPA by the Fluoride Action Network — On April 18, 2017, a lawsuit was filed with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco in which the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) is persisting to have the EPA remove fluoride from drinking water across the United States to meet the requirements of its own Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Fluoride and the Manhattan Project — Some sources suggest that fluoride was a chemical warfare agent considered by the United States military during World War II. A 1944 Manhattan Project memorandum is said to have stated, “clinical evidence suggests that uranium hexafluoride may have a rather marked central nervous system effect … It seems most likely that the F [fluoride] component rather than the T [uranium] is the causative factor.”

Europe Statements — Most western European countries have banned or discontinued fluoridation for a variety of political and safety issues. Herein are their various reasons for these choices.

World Nations Fluoridation Status — The total world nations with and without fluoridation practices.

Toxicity Guide: Fluorine and Fluoride (CDC)

NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination — A review by the British governmental body (NHS – National Health service) on the carcinogenic potential of fluoride.

“Fluoride in Drinking Water – A Review of EPA’s Standards” — A 2006 review conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) on the safety of fluoride in drinking water, based on current information.

Interview with John Doull — The chair of the NRC committee tasked with determining the efficacy and safety of current water fluoridation standards was interviewed about the results of the review his committee conducted.

John Colquhoun’s Position on Fluoridation [Abstract | Full Text] — Former Principal Dental Officer of Auckland, New Zealand, explains his scientific reasoning for reversing his pro-fluoridation stance.

Rebuttal to John Colquhoun’s Position on Fluoridation — by Herschel S. Horowitz, DDS, MPH

Prevalence of Fluorosis through 2004 (CDC)

Trend of Caries in Fluoridated and Non-Fluoridated Countries — By the Fluoride Action Network, a look at the trend of cavities by country and fluoridation status, based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Professionals Statement — A petition by the Fluoride Action Network to end fluoridation, signed by close to 5,000 professionals in the medical and dental fields, broken down by degree type.

Communities Against Fluoridation — A list of worldwide, communities who have petitioned and successfully had fluoride removed from their public water supplies, compiled by the Fluoride Action Network.

Israel Fluoridation Reversal — Israel public health minister German reviewed the evidence on fluoride and determined it was safest for her country to outlaw the use of fluoride in public water.

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