I was recently asked by a doctor friend of mine to sign a petition in support of adding fluoride to the water supply in Wichita, Kansas, where I live. Having been vaguely aware of a controversy surrounding the practice of water fluoridation, I informed my friend I would have to research the issue before I would be willing to sign such a petition. My goal in researching water fluoridation was to answer three basic questions, which I thought were the crux of the issue:
- Is water fluoridation safe?
- Is water fluoridation effective in combating tooth decay?
- Is water fluoridation the most cost-effective way to combat tooth decay?
To research, I spent a couple hours on Google, looking for evidence for and against the practice of community water fluoridation. The key piece of evidence I found was a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) entitled Fluoride in drinking-water which makes the following basic claims on the practice of community water fluoridation (CWF):
- Some studies have found possible health risks to fluoride (tooth discoloration (dental fluorosis), cancer, increased bone fractures (skeletal fluorosis), reproductive issues, etc), but followup studies have failed to produce positive links between fluoride and these health issues at the low doses advocated by CWF advocates. Conclusion: fluoride is safe, at the doses used in CWF projects.
- A certain level of fluoride is associated with decreased tooth decay
This was enough to convince me that water fluoridation was relatively safe, and effective, in the small doses called for by CWF advocates, such that I was willing to sign the petition presented by my friend.
But I don’t see my friend frequently, and as the days went by, I was still a little unnerved by the key factor that the health risks associated with fluoride were acknowledged at “high” doses, and that administering the “optimal fluoride level” seemed rather fragile, when being administered in drinking water–which is not consumed at the same rate by everyone. How could a CWF project ensure that nobody got too high of a dose?
So I began doing additional research, and finally came across some opponents of water fluoridation, whose basic arguments are:
- Fluoride is a toxic waste product, initially added to tooth paste and public drinking water in the 1940s as a public-relations stunt, to reduce the negative perception of fluoride pollution by industry and government
- Fluoride is a carcinogen, causing drastic increases in bone cancer, especially in young boys, even at the doses found in CWF projects
- Fluoride is a neurotoxin in sufficient doses, causing memory problems, ADHD-like symptoms, and possibly reduced IQ in children
- Fluoride reduces thyroid function, and was even used in treatment of overactive thyroid by doctors in the 1940s
- Fluoride is responsible for skeletal and dental fluorisis, which makes bones and teeth, respectively, brittle, and susceptible to breaking.
- There is a coverup by industry and the government, trying to hide the negative effects of fluoride on health
- It is unethical to “mass-medicate” an entire population. No other drug is prescribed to an entire community in such an uncontrolled fashion.
Some opponents have even made claims that:
- Water fluoridation is a communist plot
- Water fluoridation is a plot by the government to intentionally make the public stupid, so they can be controlled. (Claim made in this video from 4:38-5:15)
So it’s obviously pretty easy to dismiss some of the opponents as left-field conspiracy theory kooks.
But what is the truth? If CWF is as dangerous as the opponents claim, where is their evidence? And what is to be made about all the pro-fluoride evidence? If CWF is safe, as the proponents claim, then where are the opponents getting their information? Who has a motive to promote fluoridation if it’s unhealthy? Who has a motive to vilify fluoride if it is healthy?
As I continue my reading on this subject, I will continue to write about my findings here, and in as objective a manner as possible. My only agenda is to determine the truth of the matter.
In the following posts, I intend to address the three questions as the opening of this article, and additionally:
- Is there evidence of a coverup to hide potential dangers of fluoride from the public? (Addressed in part 2)
- If there is a coverup, what is the motive? (Addressed in part 2)
I hope you’ll check back occasionally as I add to this series on the science of community water fluoridation.