Dr. Elise Bassin, while working on her PhD in epidemiology at Harvard University, conducted a study that found a significant relationship between fluoride and osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer.
The study found that boys who drank fluoridated water at ages 6-8 were five times more likely to develop the cancer. The water looked at in the study had only a fourth the maximum allowable level of fluoride considered "safe" by the EPA.
These findings contradict those of Bassin's dissertation adviser, Chester Douglass, whose $1.3-million, 15-year study did not find a link between fluoridated water and osteosarcoma. He claimed Bassin's study was a subset of his study, and that he had not been able to replicate Bassin's results.
However, Douglass has received widespread criticism for defending the use of fluoride while a paid editor of the Colgate Oral Care Report, a newsletter funded by the toothpaste maker. Harvard and the National Institutes of Health are investigating whether Douglass misrepresented his research findings.
Fluoride is not one of my favorite ways to improve bone density or decrease cavities, as you may realize if you read my last article about the toxic risks of fluoride and its connection to a higher risk of bone cancer.
When I last wrote about the bone cancer link, it was a bit tricky to find a copy of the study, since the proof was contained in a then-unpublished dissertation. However, Dr. Bassin's findings finally became public not long ago, and have caused a bit of an uproar.
Of course, her former advisor didn't particularly want her findings to come out -- he's being paid to have a different opinion. Not only is he the editor of a dental newsletter for Colgate, but the NIH, which funded his study, is a leading promoter of water fluoridation, and has been so since the first government endorsement of fluoridation in 1950.
Never doubt that money influences results. For example, surveys of the medical literature have consistently shown that studies paid for by drug companies are more likely than those with other sponsors to show results favorable to the product tested.
And there certainly seem to be those who think Dr. Douglass' behavior is suspicious enough to warrant an investigation. Interestingly, in a commentary Douglass wrote for the journal in which Bassin's article appeared, he now admits that he looked at the data she used and did find "some" effect of fluoride increasing osteosarcoma risk. This contradicts his previous statements that he had not found any effect.
One piece of information he didn't publicize widely is that when he said his study found no increase in the risk of osteosarcoma, he was comparing it against children with other forms of bone cancer. In other words, if fluoride can increase the risk of many different types of bone cancer, as previous studies have indicated, then it isn't too surprising that he found no difference -- fluoride could have caused all of the bone cancers he looked at.
As far as I am concerned, considering that kids are being harmed by the toxicity of fluoride in their bones and teeth, you have more than ample reason to eliminate fluoride from your home. However, should you remain skeptical, I urge you to check out my fluoride links page.
There may be a justification to use fluoride topically to limit the spread of cavities but there is no question that it should never be used systemically in water. The problem with using it "topically" is that invariably some of it is absorbed into the body where it can only cause harm.