Fluoride Action Network

How Many Nations Fluoridate Their Water?

Paul Connett, PhD | July 1, 2002

Lending further evidence to the notion that those promoting fluoridation cannot perform (or at least comprehend) even the simplest arithmetic, is the way they cannot work out either accurately – or even approximately – how many countries in the world actually fluoridate their water. One would have thought with a large work force at its disposal that this would not be a difficult exercise for agencies like the American Dental Association. But apparently this is not the case.

In its Fluoridation Facts brochure (accessed online on August 2000), the American Dental Association stated that “Water Fluoridation is practiced in approximately 60 countries benefiting over 360,000,000 (three hundred sixty million people” (Fluoridation Facts, Question 39). The reference given for these statistics was the British Fluoridation Society. (BFS. Optimal water fluoridation: status worldwide. Liverpool; May 1998).

However, when Doug Cragoe (Fluoride Action Network) and Jane Jones (National Pure Water Association) asked the British Fluoridation Society in August and October of 2000 for this list of 60 countries, they were told that the list does not exist!

This was a bit odd considering that the ADA was citing a 1998 paper from the BFS, which supposedly documented the “60 countries.”

But never fear, the BFS assured both Cragoe and Jones that the list would soon be forthcoming. In October 2000, they wrote:

“We will be submitting a paper on fluoridation status worldwide to a journal in the near future”

However, it’s now some two years later, and the BFS has yet to furnish the list. On June 26, 2002, Jane Jones again requested the list from the BFS and they again responded that:

“This work is still in progress, and will be published in due course.”

But why could a question so seemingly basic, take an institution with deep coffers so long to answer?

The obvious answer: Because nowhere near 60 countries fluoridate their waterAnd no one seems to know this better than the BFS and the ADA.

Changing the Definition of “Water Fluoridation”

At some point following Craoge’s and Jone’s exchanges with the BFS in 2000, the ADA made a little-noticed change to their Fluoridation “Facts” page.

They changed the wording of their statement from ” Water Fluoridation is practiced in approximately 60 countries” to “Water fluoridation (natural and/or adjusted) is practiced in approximately 60 countries…” (change bolded)

In other words, the ADA – no doubt hoping it would go unnoticed – had made a rather large change, not to its own figures, but to the very definition of what constitutes water fluoridation.

According to Websters Dictionary, water fluoridation means “the addition of a fluoride to the water supply (to prevent dental decay).” But, the ADA is now telling us that a country doesn’t have to actually add fluoride to its water to be listed as ‘practicing water fluoridation.’ Instead, it simply has to have some area of its nation-state with elevated levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the water. It also puts a very peculiar connotation on the word “practice”. How do you “practice” something that happens to you naturally?

By this definition, the US could ban the practice of adding fluoride to water supplies, and still be listed by the ADA as “practicing water fluoridation” because, indeed, some water supplies in the US have elevated levels of naturally occurring fluoride.

If this weren’t bad enough, the ADA and BFS still can’t produce a list of 60 countries under this expanded definition of water fluoridation. Even though the ADA still supports its 60 country claim by citing the British Fluoridation Society, the BFS maintains that it doesn’t know yet whether this 60 country figure is correct. To quote from their website:

“The British Fluoridation Society is in the process of validating these data which have been collected in an ad hoc manner over several years. A detailed up-to-date table will be published in due course.”

As the BFS attempts to put together this list, they will face some rather awkward questions. Will they cite India or China, or the dozens of other countries where naturally occurring fluoride is causing a host of severe human health problems (see http://www.fluoridealert.org/fluorosis-india.htm), and where money is being actively sought to REMOVE fluoride from the water?

Indeed, it would be rather ironic if the BFS listed India, China, and other countries where defluoridation is being actively implemented – and in which not one artificial fluoridation program exists – as examples of countries “practicing water fluoridation.”

Enter the New Zealand Authorities

While I was in New Zealand recently, I read with interest two additional papers in which fluoridation proponents tackle this question of water fluoridation’s international status – one by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board (New Zealand) and the other by the Public Health Commission of New Zealand (PHC).

In the former paper (dated June 2002) 41 countries are cited as artificially adding fluoride to the water. But of these 41 countries, the authors are only able to cite 11. And of the 11 countries they cite, one (Finland) stopped its fluoridation program back in 1991, and another (Switzerland) only fluoridates one community – Basle.

So what about the other 31 countries?

Fortunately, the PHC report (dated 1994) provides a little bit more information on the matter. According to the PHC:

“…water fluoridation has been adopted by an estimated 39 countries (1984 data) with approximately 155 million people being supplied with fluoridated water in 1978 (Rozier, 1992).”

To their credit, the PHC – unlike the ADA or BFS – provides a list of the 39 countries which supposedly fluoridate their water. However, a quick examination of the list reveals a number of errors.

The PHC’s list counts Greece and Romania as part of the 39. Neither of these countries, however, practice fluoridation (Martin 1991). The PHC list also counts the Phillipines as one of the 39, despite the fact that the only areas in the Phillipines with fluoridated water are US military bases which comprise just 0.014% of the population (Martin 1991).

In addition, the PHC lists Bulgaria, Hungary, and Italy – 3 countries which the World Health Organization, in 1987, listed as having no existing water fluoridation programs. Thus, unless fluoridation programs were implemented in these 3 countries between the years 1987 and 1994 (the year in which the PHC report was issued), these 3 countries should also be stricken from the list.

Thus, upon a cursory glance, the PHC number should be 33, not the 39 as is claimed. Actually, the number should probably be 32, since the PHC cites Switzerland twice, thereby making their list total 38, not 39.

Of these 32 countries, it should be noted that 21 of them are listed as having “unknown legal status” in regards to fluoridation. What does this mean?

Of my knowledge of the 21 countries, I can attest to the fact that at least 3 of them do indeed practice fluoridation – at least as of 1991. That leaves 18 still in the “unresolved category”.

Thus, according to the PHC, at least 14 countries practice water fluoridation to some extent (4 of these 14 countries, as of 1991, practiced fluoridation in just one community – Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Portugal and Switzerland), while 18 others may practice water fluoridation to some extent.

That makes the grand total anywhere from 14 to 32, which in any case, is a far cry from the ADA’s claim of 60.

To state the obvious, if these “authorities” cannot count up to 60, what credence should we give their other “research” claims?

Let me end with something we do know. In the democracies of Western Europe, water fluoridation has been almost unanimously rejected. Countries there that have rejected fluoridation include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. For explanations of why these countries chose not to fluoridate, visit http://www.fluoridealert.org/govt-statements.htm. Of particular interest in this respect is that according to World Health Organization figures (see http://www.fluoridealert.org/WHO-DMFT.htm) their children’s’ teeth are just as good, if not better, than the teeth of children in fluoridated countries. And that isn’t fuzzy math!

Paul Connett, PhD, is a co- founder of the Fluoride Action Network and a Professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY.