What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Fluoride?

Story at-a-glance

  • As of 2012, more than two-thirds of Americans receive fluoridated water
  • There is not one single metabolic process in your body that requires fluoride. On the contrary, fluoride is a cumulative poison that has been linked to reductions in IQ and an array of health problems
  • Christopher Bryson, author of the book The Fluoride Deception, reveals the political and industrial backdrop that led to fluoridating water as a dental prophylactic


This is an older article that may not reflect Dr. Mercola’s current view on this topic. Use our search engine to find Dr. Mercola’s latest position on any health topic.

By Dr. Mercola

Those who bother to delve into the science behind water fluoridation will inevitably come to see that there's an abysmal lack of evidence supporting this routine practice, and an awful lot of evidence stacked against it.

Water fluoridation began in 1945. Today, the United States adds fluoride to more than two-thirds of the municipal water supplies reaching nearly 211 million Americans.

As of 2012, more than 67 percent of Americans receive fluoridated water,1 up from 66 percent in 2010.2 Of those, more than 11 million people receive fluoride at or above what has been deemed the "optimal" level, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most likely, your dentist—along with countless government and public health officials—has praised and promoted the use of fluoride, both in toothpaste and drinking water, calling it a "necessary" part of your oral health regimen.

But let's make this point clear: fluoride is not an essential nutrient needed for your health—dental or otherwise. There is not one single metabolic process in your body that requires fluoride. On the contrary, fluoride is a cumulative poison.

Fluoride—A Cumulative Poison

Approximately 98 percent of the fluoride you ingest in water is absorbed into your blood through your gastrointestinal tract. From there, it enters your body's cellular tissues. On average, about 50 percent of the fluoride you ingest each day gets excreted through your kidneys.

The remainder accumulates in your teeth and bones,3 pineal gland,4 and other tissues—including your blood vessels, where it can contribute to calcification.  According to a 2012 study published in the journal Nuclear Medicine Communications:5

"Fluoride uptake in vascular walls was demonstrated in 361 sites of 54 (96 percent) patients, whereas calcification was observed in 317 sites of 49 (88 percent) patients. Significant correlation between fluoride uptake and calcification was observed in most of the arterial walls, except in those of the abdominal aorta.

Fluoride uptake in coronary arteries was demonstrated in 28 (46 percent) patients and coronary calcifications were observed in 34 (56 percent) patients."

Health Hazards Linked to Fluoride Over-Exposure

As the number of studies into the toxic effects of fluoride has increased, there is now support for a rather long list of potential health problems related to fluoride accumulation in your body.

For example, according to one 500-page long scientific review,6 fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that can affect your bones, brain, thyroid gland, pineal gland, and even your blood sugar levels. Forty-two human studies7 have also linked moderately high fluoride exposures with reduced intelligence, and over 100 animal studies have shown that fluoride exposure can cause brain damage.

Most striking among these are 30 (out of a total of 32 investigations) that have shown that fluoride lowered the ability of animals to learn and remember. The following list contains 20 of the most commonly mentioned health hazards and diseases associated with fluoride exposure:8, 9

  • Lowers IQ
  • Disrupts immune system
  • Dementia
  • Increases aging process
  • Dental fluorosis (staining and pitting of teeth)
  • Disrupts synthesis of collagen
  • Inactivates 62 enzymes14
  • Brain damage
  • Increases tumor and cancer rate
  • Bone cancer (osteosarcoma)
  • Increased lead absorption11
  • Genetic damage and cell death12
  • Arthritis
  • Damages sperm, increases infertility
  • Bone fractures10
  • Hyperactivity and/or lethargy
  • Inhibits formation of antibodies
  • Muscle disorders
  • Reduces melatonin production and leads to earlier onset of puberty13
  • Thyroid disease and lowered thyroid function

The Sordid History of Water Fluoridation

The video above features an interview with Christopher Bryson, author of the book: The Fluoride Deception. Both the book and this interview were published 10 years ago, in 2004. Bryson is an award-winning journalist and former radio producer at the BBC.

The book is based on nearly a decade's worth of research, and it reveals the shocking details of how fluoride—a toxic byproduct of the aluminum industry—ended up being added to drinking water as a dental prophylactic.

The commonly repeated history of how water fluoridation came to be states that the practice was spurred on by research from the 1930s, which found that people who drank water containing higher levels of naturally-occurring fluoride tended to have less severe tooth decay.

On the surface, it would appear as though it was a successful government intervention on your behalf. More than 60 years later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

However, the real story reveals it was little more than a well-orchestrated PR stunt – a glowing example of the art of disseminating "adjustable truths" to sell an inconveniently toxic reality to an unsuspecting public.

In his book, Bryson describes the deeply intertwined interests that existed in the 1940s and 50s between the aluminum industry, the US nuclear weapons program, and the dental industry, which resulted in fluoride being declared not only safe, but beneficial to human health.

Prior to 1945 when communal water fluoridation in the US took effect, fluoride was actually a known toxin. A 1936 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association stated that fluoride at the 1 part per million (ppm) concentration is as toxic as arsenic and lead.

The Journal of the American Medical Association stated in their September 18, 1943 issue that fluorides are general protoplasmic poisons that change the permeability of the cell membrane by certain enzymes.15 And, an editorial published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, October 1, 1944, stated: "Drinking water containing as little as 1.2 ppm fluoride will cause developmental disturbances. We cannot run the risk of producing such serious systemic disturbances. The potentialities for harm outweigh those for good."

Science for Hire...

Due to the massive amounts of fluoride required to produce bomb-grade uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons, the Manhattan Project conducted various experiments to determine its toxic effects in 1946. There were already several instances on record of fluoride being toxic to crops, livestock, and people living downwind from the polluters, so the public concern over fluoride emissions needed to be quelled in order to avoid potentially crippling lawsuits. 

The brainchild of water fluoridation was Gerald Cox, a researcher with the Mellon Institute in Pittsburg. He received the suggestion to look at fluoride's effects on teeth from Francis C. Frary, then director of the aluminum laboratory for the Aluminum Company of America. Frary was very concerned about the mounting lawsuits over the fluoride pollution his plant produced.

Disposing of fluoride – the toxic waste product from aluminum plants -- was quickly turning into a very costly problem. Gerald Cox also had reasons to figure out a solution to the fluoride-waste problem.

The Mellon Institute had been the leading defender of the asbestos industry, producing research showing that asbestos was harmless, and that workers' health problems were due to other causes, in an effort to save the asbestos industry from financial catastrophe.

The aluminum industry was quickly realizing that fluoride could generate lawsuits of a similar magnitude as asbestos. Cox's connection to the Mellon Institute -- and their history of offering "science-based" protection to industry -- makes his recommendation to turn toxic waste material into a usable "health product" something that cannot be viewed as a mere coincidence.

Water Fluoridation—A Case of Successful Social Engineering

The ultimate driving force behind fluoridation gaining public acceptance, cementing the perception of fluoride as a healthy and, most importantly, safe additive to your drinking water, was a man named Harold Hodge.

Within the now declassified files of the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission, Christopher Bryson found that the toxicology department at the University of Rochester, under the direction of Harold Hodge, was asked to produce medical information about fluoride that could help defend the government against lawsuits over fluoride pollution. Back in 1957, Harold Hodge was the nation's leading, most trusted scientist, and when he declared that fluoride was "absolutely safe" at 1 ppm, everyone believed him.

Much later, it was publicly revealed that Hodge directed the human radiation experiments—a black spot in American medical history in which citizens were injected with plutonium and uranium without their knowledge or consent...

So, the endorsement of fluoride as a dental health prophylactic was actually born from the need to address increasingly debilitating political and industrial problems relating to fluoride pollution. The rest, as they say, is history. In his 2012 article "Poison is Treatment—Edward Bernays and the Campaign to Fluoridate America,"16 James F. Tracy boldly reveals the PR campaign that created this fake public health measure:

"The wide-scale US acceptance of fluoride-related compounds in drinking water and a wide variety of consumer products over the past half century is a textbook case of social engineering orchestrated by Sigmund Freud's nephew and the 'father of public relations' Edward L. Bernays," he writes. "The episode is instructive, for it suggests the tremendous capacity of powerful interests to reshape the social environment, thereby prompting individuals to unwarily think and act in ways that are often harmful to themselves and their loved ones."

What's Really Added to Your Water Supply?

It's also important to understand that the "fluoride" added to your drinking water is NOT the naturally-occurring mineral, nor a pharmaceutical grade fluoride. There are three basic compounds that can be used for fluoridating water supplies:17

  1. Sodium fluoride (NaF)
  2. Sodium silicofluoride
  3. Hydrofluorosilicic acid

The first of these, sodium fluoride, was the first of the fluoride waste materials to be used for fluoridation, but now is rarely used. It's the most well known, as this is the compound used as pharmaceutical grade in toxicology studies and other research into the potential health dangers of fluoride.

The other two, sodium silicofluoride and hydrofluorosilicic acid, are the compounds actually used for water fluoridation, with hydrofluorosilicic acid being the most commonly used additive, according to the CDC.18

Sodium silicofluoride and hydrofluorosilicic acid are the waste products from the wet scrubber systems of the fertilizer industry, and are classified as hazardous wastes. Contamination with various impurities such as arsenic is also common in these products. Hydrofluorosilicic acid is one of the most reactive chemicals known to man, and its toxicity is well known in chemical circles.

It will eat through metal and plastic pipes, and corrode stainless steel and other materials. It will dissolve rubber tires and melt concrete.19 This is what is added to your water—all in the name of saving children from cavities! But even the less reactive sodium fluoride is a deadly poison, even in small quantities, and in the form used for fluoridation also contains additional impurities. Other common uses for sodium fluoride include:

  • Rat and cockroach poisons
  • Anesthetics
  • Hypnotics and psychiatric drugs

The Way Forward: Shifting the Burden of Proof

Despite all the evidence, getting fluoride out of American water supplies has been exceedingly difficult. And it's no wonder, really, when you factor in the considerable liability the US government could face were they to suddenly admit that water fluoridation was a way to hide toxic pollution, and there are detrimental health effects associated with drinking these pollutants... Fortunately, there is a way forward.

According to Jeff Green, National Director of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, a repeated theme in some of the recent cases where communities successfully removed fluoride from their water supply is the shifting of the burden of proof.

Rather than citizens taking on the burden of proving that fluoride is harmful and shouldn't be added, a more successful strategy has been to hold those making claims, and the elected officials who rely on them, accountable for delivering proof that the specific fluoridation chemical being used fulfills their health and safety claims, and is in compliance with all regulations, laws, and risk assessments already required for safe drinking water.

For example, a couple of years ago, a Tennessee town stopped adding the hydrofluosilicic acid fluoride product they had been using, while still keeping its resolution to fluoridate its water supplies intact (meaning they didn't make a decision on whether it might be harmful).

They just haven't been able to find a replacement product that is compliant with existing laws, regulations and safe-water requirements, and they will not add any fluoride product that is not in compliance. To learn more, please see this previous article, which discusses these strategies more in-depth.

Fluoride Alert Brochure


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