Rather than combating the high levels of pesticides found in much of the food grown in the United States, the negative effects of factory farming, or the lack of clean water available to numerous communities across the country, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing slightly lowering the standard for fluoride content in bottled water.
Thankfully, scientists and environmental organizations alike are pushing back on the proposed changes, saying the new standard will still be too high for safe consumption.
The FDA’s current standard straddles 0.8 and 1.7 milligrams per liter. The new regulation, if finalized, will lower the standard for both imported and domestically packaged bottled water to 0.7 milligrams per liter. The new regulation only addresses bottled water with fluoride added during the process, not bottled water that contains fluoride from the source.
For years, critics of the fluoridation of drinking water have maintained that it is not safe nor helpful in combating tooth decay. As long as critics of fluoride have existed, so has a campaign to mock those same people as conspiracy theorists or science deniers.
In 2015, the U.S. Public Health Service suggested that 0.7 milligrams per liter was the optimal concentration for fluoride in community water. According to the FDA, the proposed rule “is based on findings from evolving research on optimal concentrations of fluoride that balances fluoride’s benefits in preventing tooth decay with its risk of causing dental fluorosis, a condition most often characterized by white patches on teeth.” Dental fluorosis is causedwhen too much fluoride is consumed while teeth are still developing.
Some scientists are now speaking out, expressing concerns extending beyond tooth health and instances of dental fluorosis.
Christopher Neurath, research director of the American Environmental Health Studies Project, published a study this year highlighting a “dramatic increase in fluorosis” over the last decade. Over 30% of adolescents involved in the study showed “moderate and severe dental fluorosis” with 35% showing lesser, but still significant, signs of dental fluorosis.
Neurath maintains that the slight decrease in bottled water fluoridation that would result if the standard were approved would do little to reduce occurrences of dental fluorosis.
“Dental fluorosis is a visible sign of overexposure to fluoride, but there are other nonvisible signs and adverse health effects that are much more serious,” Neurath said. “Currently, there are rapidly increasing scientific studies showing neurotoxicity to fluoride.”
Dr. Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, wrote:
“Given that fluoride can damage brain development, I would recommend that the maximum fluoride concentration in bottled water be kept at a lower level than 0.7 mg/L.”
Neurath calls the link between IQ and fluoride exposure in the womb their “largest concern.” Neurath insists the effects of prenatal exposure to fluoride on IQ is “very large,” adding that “on a population basis, that’s very concerning.”
As reported by CNN:
“Morteza Bashash, an assistant professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, found that higher fluoride levels as measured in urine samples of pregnant women are associated with both lower IQ and increased risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder among children in Mexico.”
Bashash found “a drop in children’s scores on intelligence tests for every 0.5 milligram-per-liter increase in fluoride exposure beyond 0.8 milligrams per liter detected in a pregnant mother’s urine.”
Despite concerns, the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics “fully support the public health benefits of community water fluoridation.”
Dr. Grandjean maintains, “Given that fluoride is added to toothpaste to secure that the enamel surface of the teeth is properly protected against caries, there is no need to supplement the dietary fluoride intake.”
For those in the know about the potential effects of water fluoridation, avoiding bottled water in the United States is one way to avoid its ill effects. While many adults and parents choose to avoid toothpaste and dental treatments that include fluoride, many remain unaware or helpless when it comes to municipal water supply fluoridation, meaning the water consumed directly or used in cooking in homes, schools, and restaurants alike contains invisible and odorless fluoride.
More and more Americans are combating municipal water fluoridation by using filtration systems that remove fluoride like reverse osmosis, gravity filters, distillers, and pitchers. While all four types remove fluoride, each has advantages and disadvantages including cost, ease of use, mineralization and more.
In addition to individuals, since 1990 more than 400 communities across the United States and Canada have opted to end municipal fluoridation. A list of those communities can be found here. When it comes to reversing municipal fluoridation, the process usually begins with one concerned citizen making their neighbors and city council aware. Visit the Fluoride Action Network to learn how to start a successful local fluoride-free campaign.