By Dr. Mercola
For any debate to be successful, there must be integrity on both sides as well as respect. This is lacking in discussions about water fluoridation, in which name-calling and disrespect are par for the course — particularly against anyone who dare speak out against it.
Stephen Peckham, director of the Centre for Health Service Studies at the University of Kent and a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Toronto, knows this all too well.
In 2014, he and a colleague published a study that concluded, "available evidence suggests that fluoride has a potential to cause major adverse human health problems, while having only a modest dental caries prevention effect."1
They recommended that water fluoridation be reconsidered globally, a trend that's already increasing as the notion of mass-medicating populations with a toxic chemical falls out of favor.
Since 2010, more than 150 communities and countries — including Israel, Portland, Oregon, and Calgary in Alberta, Canada — have rejected water fluoridation2 — so it's not as though Peckham's findings came as a complete surprise.
Still, his 2014 publication, and another published in 2015 that linked fluoridated water consumption to thyroid dysfunction, were met by a series of "poisonous attacks." "Nothing prepared me for the ferocity around fluoridation," Peckham told The Guardian. "I've been hugely and personally attacked."3
History of Attacking Opponents to Water Fluoridation Dates Back to 'Dr. Strangelove' Film
In the water fluoridation debate, those who spoke out against it have long been labeled as quacks or zealots. This can be traced back decades, in part due to Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film "Dr. Strangelove."
In the film, General Jack D. Ripper tries to stop a Communist conspiracy to harm Americans with fluoridated water and at one point states:
"Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?"
Of course, water fluoridation was not a communist plot — it was started by the U.S. Public Health Service. But the film pokes fun at the John Birch Society, an extreme right-wing group that happened to be anti-fluoridation.
So, of course, anyone at the time who dared speak out against fluoridation was also ruled to be a fanatic, a radical or just a lunatic — even when they could point to legitimate science to back up their claims.
Historian Attacked for Daring to Speak Against Water Fluoridation
Even before "Dr. Strangelove," Catherine Carstairs, Ph.D., of the department of History at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, argued in the American Journal of Public Health that:4
" … [S]ome early concerns about the toxicity of fluoride were put aside as evidence regarding the effectiveness and safety of water fluoridation mounted and as the opposition was taken over by people with little standing in the scientific, medical, and dental communities.
The sense of optimism that infused postwar science and the desire of dentists to have a magic bullet that could wipe out tooth decay also affected the scientific debate."
By the way, Carstairs too was attacked for her historical account, as was the scientific journal that "dared" to publish it. "You don't usually get this kind of attention as an historian," Carstairs told The Guardian. "It was like, how dare you say anything against water fluoridation."5
Hull, England Mulls Water Fluoridation Despite Opposition From Locals
The vast majority (97 percent) of Western Europe has rejected water fluoridation, but Hull, England is considering adding it to the water supply. No new fluoridation plans have been passed in the U.K. in 20 years — despite more than 60 proposals in that period.6
However, the Hull city council has commissioned an engineering feasibility study on fluoridation, the results of which they plan to use to determine how, when and whether to move forward.
The proposal has been met with intense opposition from locals who believe adding fluoride to the water is "mass medication without consent."
While the city has a high rate of tooth decay — 43 percent of the area's 5-year-olds have tooth decay compared with 28 percent nationally7 — the evidence that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay is very weak.
The vast majority of countries fluoridate neither their water nor their salt, but according to the World Health Organization, tooth decay in 12-year-olds is coming down as fast, if not faster, in non-fluoridated countries as it is in fluoridated countries.8
Hull is but one example of cities debating water fluoridation. Another is Cornwall, Ontario, where the water was fluoridated until an equipment failure occurred in 2013. Paul Connett, Ph.D., a chemist and executive director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), lobbied the city council against the return of fluoridation in the city.
"You can't control who it goes to. It goes to babies, to sick people, people with poor nutrition … and it violates the individual's right to informed consent to medication," Connett said, in addition to pointing out studies linking fluoride to lower IQ.9
The Evidence Is In: Water Fluoridation May Not Prevent Cavities
In 2015, the Cochrane Collaboration, which releases comprehensive reviews regarded as the gold standard in assessing public health policies, turned their attention to water fluoridation and its effects on cavities.10
In a review of every fluoridation study they could find, only three since 1975, looked at the effectiveness of water fluoridation at reducing tooth decay among the general population and had high enough quality to be included.
The studies found fluoridation does not reduce cavities to a statistically significant degree in permanent teeth.11 Further, in the two studies since 1975 that examined the effectiveness of fluoridation in reducing cavities in baby teeth, no significant reduction was noted there either.
Study co-author Anne-Marie Glenny, a health science researcher at Manchester University in the United Kingdom, told Newsweek:12
"From the review, we're unable to determine whether water fluoridation has an impact on caries [cavity] levels in adults."
While they couldn't prove that water fluoridation is beneficial, they did find that it causes harm. About 12 percent of those living in fluoridated areas had dental fluorosis that was an "aesthetic concern."
Dental fluorosis is a condition in which your tooth enamel becomes progressively discolored and mottled, and it's one of the first signs of over-exposure to fluoride.
Eventually, it can result in badly damaged teeth, and, worse, it can also be an indication the rest of your body, such as your bones and internal organs, including your brain, have been overexposed to fluoride as well.
Fluoride May Increase Lead in Drinking Water
The toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan made headlines after Virginia Tech scientists discovered Flint's tap water was contaminated with lead — in some cases twice the level considered to be toxic waste — as well as other toxins and dangerous bacteria.
Tragic as the Flint catastrophe is, it is, sadly, not an isolated event. Children in other states, from New York to Pennsylvania to Illinois, are also at risk of lead poisoning, some even more so than the children in Flint. Many are simply unaware there's a problem with their water.
Many are also unaware that the presence of fluoride in the water may make any lead issues even worse. Originally, the fluoride used to fluoridate water supplies came from the aluminum and atomic bomb industries.
A couple of years later, however, they realized there was another fluoride product that was much more readily available. The reason it was so readily accessible was because it was a truly hazardous waste that was very hard to get rid of, namely hydrogen fluoride from the phosphate fertilizer industry.
This fluoride gas is captured in the scrubber system and turned into fluorosilicic acid (FSA) — which is the primary source of fluoride used for water fluoridation. This phosphate fertilizer byproduct also typically contains arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury, plus a variety of other contaminants that are part of the phosphate ore — it's also corrosive. According to FAN:13
"Some of the first indications that FSA could leach lead into water came in the early 1990s when water departments in Maryland and Washington noticed significant drops in water lead levels immediately after terminating their fluoridation programs.
More recently, water departments have confirmed that the addition of FSA can increase the acidity of water, which in turn makes the water more corrosive … in Thunder Bay, Canada, the addition of FSA was found to reduce the pH of the city's soft water (from 7.54 to 7.27), nearly tripling the rate of lead leaching from pipes …
… [H]ighly diluted levels of FSA can leach lead from pipes and common brass fixtures, even in pH-adjusted water, and this effect can be unpredictably amplified in the presence of other common water treatment chemicals.
Childsmile Initiative: Alternative to Water Fluoridation Shows Success in Scotland
In 2010, Scotland rolled out the Childsmile Initiative, which was created by dentist Lorna MacPherson, Ph.D. at the request of the country's chief dental officer, as an alternative to water fluoridation. The initiative hands out free toothbrushes and toothpaste to children and offers two fluoride varnish applications per year (also of dubious efficacy but still less harmful than a lifetime of consuming fluoridated water).
The program also offers daily supervised teeth brushing to children attending nursery (preschool) and those in primary schools in low-income areas. It even provides dietary advice for preventing tooth decay. Indeed, the best way to prevent cavities is not through fluoride, but by addressing your diet. One of the keys to oral health is eating a traditional diet or real foods, rich in fresh, unprocessed vegetables, nuts, pastured eggs and grass-fed meats.
The Childsmile Initiative has been extremely successful, saving the country more than $7 million a year in treatment costs.14 The number of primary school children with no obvious dental decay has also increased, from 54 percent in 2006 to 68 percent in 2016. Macpherson told The Guardian:15
"There was no appetite to take the fluoridation route, but we needed to do something. So we agreed with the chief dental officer to be pragmatic … It's a more holistic approach … The universal part, the equivalent of water fluoridation if you like, is the nursery toothbrushing.
Then for the children more at risk of caries, we offer additional support. We call it proportionate universalism — something for everyone, but proportionate to their needs."
Prevention and Education Are Needed to Prevent Cavities
New recommendations released by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy also championed the use of prevention and education to prevent early childhood cavities, noting water fluoridation wouldn't be needed if such measures were effectively practiced.
The paper's authors even pointed out that water fluoridation is not preventing tooth decay, as areas with water fluoridation, such as Edmonton, still have a high rate of early childhood cavities. The recommendations call for increased education for parents on the importance of proper feeding and dental hygiene for infants, as well as for health care professionals to discuss these issues with patients. Co-author Jennifer Zwicker, Ph.D. told 660 News:16
"We're recommending that at baby visits ... and any kind of interface with public health nurses or pediatricians, just explaining to parents, you need to be cleaning their gums, you need to be brushing their teeth, just so you're not ending up with children going to the emergency room needing surgery for dental pain."
Who Are the Real 'Conspiracy Theorists?'
In 2015, even National Geographic stopped so low as to suggest anyone who questions water fluoridation is a conspiracy theorist.17 Yet, in 2014 Lancet Neurology released a study, authored by a Harvard doctor, among others, that classified fluoride as a developmental neurotoxin.18
The meta-analysis clearly showed that children exposed to fluoride in drinking water had lower IQ, by an average of seven points, in areas with raised concentrations. And the majority of the studies had fluoride levels of less than 4 milligrams (mg) per liter, which is under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) allowable level.
Meanwhile, we have visible evidence (dental fluorosis) that U.S. children are being overexposed to fluoride. That fluoride doesn't just stop at the teeth; it's being taken internally. It's no conspiracy theory; it's a fact that deserves urgent attention and immediate policy review.
Who are the real denialists about fluoride? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Dental Association (ADA), which continue to tout water fluoridation as "safe and effective" even as evidence to the contrary pours in around them.
Eventually, and it appears sooner rather than later, they are going to have to face the damage they have caused to so many children by demanding water fluoridation for all — and continuing to do so rather than admitting their mistake.