2020 is my year to be brave. And so, with my big girl boots on, I’m going to tackle the controversial topic of fluoridation of our water. As this is just a brief summary I will not be discussing how fluoride affects us at a biochemical level but aim mainly to summarise the recent JAMA Pediatrics study which showed an ‘association between maternal fluoride exposure during pregnancy and lowered IQ scores in offspring’ (1).
In this research paper, the IQ of children aged 3-4 was studied, with ‘a 1-mg higher daily intake of fluoride among pregnant women… associated with a 3.66 lower IQ score (95% CI, -7.16 to -0.14) in boys and girls’. Whilst, like all scientific studies, it has its limitations the findings were alarming enough for the study’s authors to propose that the findings ‘indicate the possible need to reduce fluoride intake during pregnancy’ (1).
There is a plethora of evidence supporting fluoride’s potential to cause major adverse health issues (2). One of the most concerning is fluorides link to increasing rates of cancer with Dean Burk, Chief Chemist Emeritus, in a quote as early as 1975 stating, ”In point of fact, fluoride causes more human cancer death, and causes it faster, than any other chemical” (3), 4).
With thyroid health, an essential component of our overall health, fluorides effect on the thyroid gland, is also of concern. Fluoride raises thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is a hormone that the brain releases to control the release of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland (5).
I have reviewed the evidence supporting water fluoridation, and invite you to explore it yourself, but implore you to please analyse the quality of the studies carefully. And whilst reading these studies bear in mind the ‘precautionary principle’ (‘when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically’) (6).
As this is just a brief summary I will also not go into details of how to prevent or treat water fluoridation but a simple, cheap and easily available step is a water filter that removes fluoride (most basic ones just remove chlorine). Another option is to move to non-fluoridated water town, details of which can be found on the fluoride-free website (7).
If you or your patients suspect you have fluoride related health issues I strongly advise consulting with an Integrative GP (details are available through the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine at https://www.acnem.org). An Integrative GP will be able to offer more comprehensive testing and have the time to do a more thorough exposure history, not only to fluoride but other chemicals.
Regarding fluorides ability to reduce dental decay, let me quote the authors of the 2015 Cochrane review, ‘We did not identify any evidence, meeting the review’s inclusion criteria, to determine the effectiveness of water fluoridation for preventing caries in adults.’ (8)
However let us, for argument’s sake, suppose there was enough quality evidence to state that water fluoridation did reduce dental caries, is reducing dental caries more important than the health of our children’s’ brains? Especially when there are far more effective ways to prevent dental decay, that don’t cost money or adversely our health and in fact raises money, which is among one of the many other benefits of a sugar tax.