In 2012, Harvard researchers published a systematic review and meta-analysis implicating fluoride as a potential neurotoxin affecting the developing brain. [source: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1104912/]
Three years later, in December 2015, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admitted "the existing literature is limited in its ability to evaluate potential neurocognitive effects of fluoride in people associated with the current U.S. Public Health Service drinking water guidance (0.7 mg/L)." [source] The NTP then outlined a plan to study the extent of fluoride’s impact on children's neurodevelopment.
Why is the Department of Health and Human Services still recommending the addition of fluoride to the public water supply while toxicologists in the National Toxicology Program admit we do not have a clear understanding of its neurotoxic effect on children?
When water fluoridation was first endorsed by government dentists seventy years ago, we didn’t realize the effect chronic exposure to toxic chemicals can have on long-term health. We had to learn the hard way that chemicals such as lead, mercury, asbestos, and DDT are more dangerous than we originally thought. Given this history, the prudent course of action is to stop endorsing public water fluoridation until our leading toxicologists (not dentists) fully study its safety.
Here’s how I became interested in fluoride.
Nearly all my life, I drank fluoridated water without questioning the health authorities who said it was good for me. But when I spent a year in Scotland as a Fulbright scholar, I experienced the dramatic difference it makes living in a non-fluoridated country. Over 95 percent of Western Europe does not fluoridate its water supply.
For me, the major difference living without fluoridated water was the disappearance of the cystic acne that plagued me throughout my adult life. I eventually figured out that fluoride was the cause of my acne.
Sensitivity to fluoride is not an uncommon condition, it’s just not commonly diagnosed because few people understand the extent to which fluoride has infiltrated our modern lives. In addition to public drinking water and toothpaste, we are exposed to fluoride through fluoride-based pesticides that accumulate in fruit, vegetables, and even chicken nuggets and lunch meat, as well as fluorinated pharmaceuticals like Prozac and Paxil.
When I started researching fluoride, I was shocked to learn that according to the CDC, 90 percent of the fluoride added to the water supply is hydrofluorosilicic acid, an unfiltered byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry. Fluoride is considered a pollutant when released through factory smokestacks but after fluoride pollution devastated thousands of acres of agricultural land in the 1950s, regulators restricted its release into the atmosphere. This is the same industrial byproduct that is now packaged and sold to local water utilities for addition to public water supplies.
The research on fluoride has been flagrantly skewed by corporate polluters who had a strong self-interest in proving the safety and effectiveness of fluoridation. In a comprehensive review conducted in June 2015 by the Cochrane Group, a U.K.-based organization described in Newsweek as "the gold standard of scientific rigor in assessing effectiveness of public health policies," reviewers concluded: "There is very little contemporary evidence, meeting the review's inclusion criteria, that has evaluated the effectiveness of water fluoridation for the prevention of caries."
Data from the World Health Organization shows the decline in tooth decay occurred equally in fluoridated and non-fluoridated countries throughout the western world as nutrition improved. Is the questionable benefit of a reduction in cavities worth the risk of impairing our children’s mental development?
And what about Erin Brockovich's argument that the use of the public water system to disperse compulsory mass medication is ethically and fundamentally wrong?
The NTP intends to study fluoride’s role in cancer, too.
In 1977, Congress ordered a similar study regarding fluoride and cancer. When the results were finally published over a decade later, a senior toxicologist at EPA's Office of Drinking Water was fired when he concluded the study indicates fluoride is a possible carcinogen. He was reinstated in 1994 under the Whistleblower Protection Act but his concerns about fluoride were never addressed.
In June 2000, senior representatives from the EPA Headquarters Union of professional employees testified in front of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Drinking Water to call for a moratorium on fluoridation and further review of the cancer study. Their warnings were not heeded. It is time we tell Congress we want them to follow through with these recommendations.
Please join me in asking the current members of the Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Drinking Water to stop the promotion of public water fluoridation by the Department of Health and Human Services until toxicologists fully study its negative health effects.
Leading advocates of fluoridation in Canada and New Zealand have reversed their endorsement of fluoride. How long will it take before health authorities in the United States realize public water fluoridation is a costly mistake?
We cannot wait for U. S. health authorities to see past decades of undue corporate influence. Our government needs to stop endorsing public water fluoridation now.
*Thank you to city councilor Ari Herzog for permission to use a photo of the fluoride added to the water in his town of Newburyport, MA.