The (Unfounded) Scare: The addition of fluoride to tap water causes multiple health problems, including fluorosis, abnormal thyroid function, lower IQ and osteosarcoma.

Origin of the Scare: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published an article in their August 2007 Bulletin entitled “Fluoride in Your Water: Friend or Foe?”(6) The article claimed that “[e]ven the American Dental Association has changed its tune and tells parents to avoid fluoridated water.” The EWG also featured a study done by researchers at Harvard, which was also published in the Harvard journal Cancer Causes and Control.(7) The study linked fluoridated water to a rare bone cancer in boys.

Media Coverage: This story scared many cities about their public water supply and was picked up by hundreds of local newspapers. ABC in Fayetteville, North Carolina ran a story about fluoridated water entitled “Fluoridation fears.” It quoted Dr. Michael Fleming, a member of the FDA dental advisory committee, saying, frighteningly, “Fluoride in the water is essentially a drug, it’s an uncontrolled use of a drug.”(8)

The Bottom Line: The EWG is a strident anti-chemical group that took two claims about fluoride and ran with them, in a bad direction. The authors of the Harvard paper noted that their work is just a part of a much bigger project and that it is an “exploratory analysis” that will require scientific confirmation. In addition to this, the principal investigator of the larger study states that the full study will not suggest an overall association between fluoride and osteosarcoma.(9) Not only did EWG skew their reporting of the Harvard data, they also misrepresented the ADA’s recommendations about fluoride and infant formula.(10) The ADA states that infant formula prepared with fluoridated water presents no health risk but may create a small increased risk of fluorosis, which only affects the way teeth look, not overall health as the EWG would like everyone to believe. They should be ashamed for telling a flat-out lie about the ADA.

1. New Product Test Finds Lead in Lipstick
Available at

2. Love the Lipstick—Is That Lead You’re Wearing?
Available at

3. Lead in Lipstick: Red alert or false alarm
Available at


5. Lead and Human Health
Available at

6. Fluoride in Your Water: Friend or Foe
Available at

7. Fluoride May Cause Cancer
Available at

8. Fluoridation Fears
Available at

9. Sound Science vs. the AntiFluoridation Gang (EWG and FAN)
Available at

10. ADA offers interim guidance on infant formula and fluoride
Available at

Top Ten Unfounded Health Scares of 2007

Scare #1: Lipstick Is Toxic (Lead in Cosmetics)

Scare #2: Fluoridated Water Jeopardizes Your Health

Scare #3: Red Meat and Processed Meat Increase Cancer Risk

Scare #4: PFOA Causes Low Birth Weight Babies

Scare #5: Nitrites in Cured Meat Cause Lung Disease

Scare #6: Roses Are Toxic

Scare #7: Rubber Ducks Are Toxic (Phthalates Endanger Children)

Scare #8: Vaccines Cause Autism

Scare #9: Office Printers Are as Hazardous as Secondhand Cigarette Smoke

Scare #10: Water Bottles Cause Cancer