Water fluoridation is the practice of adding industrial-grade fluoride chemicals to water for the purpose of preventing tooth decay. One of the little known facts about this practice is that the United States, which fluoridates over 70% of its water supplies, has more people drinking fluoridated water than the rest of the world combined. Most developed nations, including all of Japan and 97% of western Europe, do not fluoridate their water.
In the United States, the Oral Health Division of the Centers Disease Control (CDC) hails fluoridation as one of the “top ten public health achievements of the 20th century.” However, comprehensive data from the World Health Organization reveals that there is no discernible difference in tooth decay between the minority of western nations that fluoridate water, and the majority that do not. In fact, the tooth decay rates in many non-fluoridated countries are now lower than the tooth decay rates in fluoridated ones.
As is becoming increasingly clear, fluoridating water supplies is an outdated, unnecessary, and dangerous relic from a 1950s public health culture that viewed mass distribution of chemicals much differently than scientists do today. The few nations that still fluoridate their water should end the practice. Here’s three reasons why:
Three Reasons to End Water Fluoridation
Reason #1: Fluoridation Is an Outdated Form of Mass Medication
Unlike all other water treatment processes, fluoridation does not treat the water itself, but the person consuming it. The Food & Drug Administration accepts that fluoride is a drug, not a nutrient, when used to prevent disease. By definition, therefore, fluoridating water is a form of medication. This is why most western European nations have rejected the practice — because, in their view, the public water supply is not an appropriate place to be adding drugs, particularly when fluoride is readily available for individual use in the form of toothpaste.
Reason #2: Fluoridation Is Unnecessary and Ineffective
The most obvious reason to end fluoridation is that it is now known that fluoride’s main benefit comes from topical contact with the teeth, not from ingestion. Even the CDC’s Oral Health Division now acknowledges this. There is simply no need, therefore, to swallow fluoride, whether in the water, toothpaste, or any other form. Further, despite early claims that fluoridated water would reduce cavities by 65%, modern large-scale studies show no consistent or meaningful difference in the cavity rates of fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.
Reason #3: Fluoridation Is Not a Safe Practice
First, there is no dispute that fluoridation is causing millions of children to develop dental fluorosis, a discoloration of the teeth that is caused by excessive fluoride intake. Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control have even acknowledged that fluoridation is causing “cosmetically objectionable” fluorosis on children’s front teeth–an effect that can cause children embarrassment and anxiety at an age when physical appearance is the single most important predictor of self-esteem.
Second, it is known that fluoridated water caused severe bone disease in dialysis patients up until the late 1970s (prior to dialysis units filtering fluoride). While dialysis units now filter out the fluoride, research shows that current fluoride exposures are still resulting in dangerously high bone fluoride levels in dialysis patients and patients with other advanced forms of kidney disease. It is unethical to compromise the health of some members in a population to obtain a purported benefit for another — particularly in the absence of these vulnerable members’ knowing consent.
And, finally, a growing body of evidence reasonably indicates that fluoridated water, in addition to other sources of daily fluoride exposure, can cause or contribute to a range of serious effects, including arthritis, damage to the developing brain, reduced thyroid function, and possibly osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in adolescent males.
Communities Are Starting to Get the Message
In recent years, communities throughout the United States and Canada have started to reassess the conventional wisdom of fluoridating their water. Many of these communities, including over 50 since 2010, are reaching the obvious conclusion: when stripped of its endorsements, well-meaning intentions, and PR-praise, fluoridation simply makes no sense.
Europe reached this conclusion a long time ago. It is now time for the U.S. and other English-speaking nations to follow suit.
Need More Reasons?
- 10 Facts About Fluoride – Fluoride Action Network
- 50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation – Dr. Paul Connett, FAN’s Executive Director (Updated August 2012)
- The Absurdities of Water Fluoridation - Dr. Paul Connett, FAN’s Executive Director
- Why EPA’s Headquarters Professionals Union Opposes Fluoridation – Dr. J. William Hirzy, Senior Vice President, EPA HQ Union
- Medical Ethics
- Fluoridation Chemicals
- Who Opposes Fluoridation?
- A Response to Pro-Fluoridation Claims
Gov’t Failed to Warn About Fluoride’s Disproportionate Harm to Black Community
New York – October 15, 2014 -- Government health authorities knew over 50 years ago that black Americans suffered greater harm from fluoridation, yet failed to warn the black community about their disproportionate risk, according to documents obtained by the Fluoride Action Network (FAN). In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, experimentally added
Israel Will End Fluoridation in 2014, Citing Health Concerns
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this press release incorrectly stated that the 1974 regulation mandated fluoridation. The 1974 regulation permitted fluoridation, but did not mandate it. It was not until 1998 that Israel mandated fluoridation. According to a recent opinion from Israel's Supreme Court, both laws have been revoked by
Portland Uses Science & Integrity to Defeat Fluoridation
Portland, Oregon -- A broad coalition of Portlanders have resoundingly rejected adding fluoridation chemicals to the city's water supply. By a 61% to 39% margin, Portland voters agreed with the positon of most western nations that there are safer, more effective, and less intrusive ways to promote oral health than adding a
Armfield & Spencer (2004): Consumption of Nonpublic water: Implications for Children’s Caries Experience
In this 2004 study by pro-fluoridation researchers in Australia, children with lifetime exposure to fluoridated water had no reduction in tooth decay of the permanent teeth when compared to children who had never lived in fluoridated communities.
Water Fluoridation & the Quality of Evidence Problem
Advocates of fluoridating water often state that there "thousands" of studies that prove fluoridation to be both safe and effective. In 2000, however, a systematic review of the literature commissioned by the British Government ("York Review") found that, under current standards for what constitutes good medical evidence, there has not
"Mild" Dental Fluorosis: Perceptions & Psychological Impact
The vast majority of research has found that patients, parents, and the general public alike view mild fluorosis (TF score 3) as a significant blemish of the teeth, one that is likely to embarrass the affected child to a degree that cosmetic treatment would be warranted.
Water Fluoridation Additives Fact Sheet
Types of Fluoride Additives Community water systems in the United States use one of three additives for water fluoridation. Decisions on which additive to use are based on cost of product, product-handling requirements, space availability, and equipment. The three additives are: Fluorosilicic acid: a water-based solution used by most water systems in the
Mandatory Fluoridation in the U.S.
Seventeen states, including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, have laws intended to provide statewide fluoridation. These states and the year that the fluoridation legislation was passed are listed below. The information on states before the year 2000 comes from: Mandatory State Laws on Fluoridation Prepared by Tom Reeves, CDC Fluoridation Engineer December
Connecticut: Mandatory Fluoridation - 2013 Update
2013-R-0171 You asked for an update to OLR Report 2007-R-0655, describing Connecticut law on water fluoridation. BACKGROUND Most water supplies contain trace amounts of fluoride. When a water system adjusts the level of fluoride above the naturally occurring amount, it is referred to as community water fluoridation. According to 2010 statistics from the Centers
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