I have spent the last six years researching the issue of fluoridation, with no ax to grind, and I am appalled that anyone would consider adding this biologically and pharmacologically active substance to the drinking water.

Fluoride is not an essential nutrient. The level in mothers’ milk (10 parts per billion) is one hundred times less than the level put into drinking water (1,000 ppb) (IOM, 1997). Moreover, this is the only time in human history that we have used the public water supply to deliver medication and thus overrule the individual’s right of “informed consent.”

Fluoridation started in America in 1945, when people had a much more cavalier attitude to the widespread exposure of chemicals. It was endorsed by the U.S. Public Health Service in 1950 before one single trial had been completed. Government officials and the American Dental Association have exaggerated its benefits and ignored its risks ever since.

The policy is so embarrassing that even the union that represents the 1,500 professionals working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., has come out in opposition to this practice (Hirzy, 1999).

In fact, most countries around the world, including the vast majority of European countries, have also rejected the practice, yet according to World Health Organization data (available online) their children’s teeth are just as good, if not better, than those in fluoridated communities in America.

There is a far stronger correlation between dental decay and poverty than there is between dental decay and fluoride. Tooth decay is caused by a poor diet, too much sugar, not enough brushing and not enough preventive care. Instead of delivering poison to poor children, we should be finding ways of getting better dental care for those children whose families can’t afford insurance.

My major concern in this matter is that our kids are getting too much fluoride (from a variety of sources) not too little. One in three children in fluoridated communities have had their enamel damaged by overexposure to fluoride (Heller, 1997). This is called dental fluorosis and consists of white patches that become brown and pitted in more severe cases.

This level of fluorosis is three times higher than the original goal of the program. It is a visible toxic effect of fluoride and indicates that many kids are being overexposed to fluoride. Prudent officials should insist on determining the total dose of fluoride their children are already getting, before sanctioning more.

About 50 percent of the fluoride we ingest each day is excreted through our kidneys, but the rest accumulates in our bones and other tissues. Luke (2001) has shown that fluoride concentrates in the pineal gland, which produces the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin.

This could be very serious. In animal studies fluoride lowers melatonin production and shortens the time to the onset of puberty (Luke, 1997). There are other concerns with which fluoride may play a role, including: osteoarthritis; osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in young men (Cohn, 1992) and increased hip fracture in the elderly (Li et al, 2001); lowering the activity of the thyroid gland (Galleti and Joyet, 1958, and Bachinskii, 1985); and lowering IQ (Zhao, 1996).

It is extraordinary to discover that:

• These health risks – whether they impact a small or large number of people – are being taken to secure a benefit that amounts to a mere six-tenths of one tooth surface out of 128 tooth surfaces in a child’s mouth (Brunelle and Carlos, 1990);

• The Centers for Disease Control concedes that fluoride’s benefits, such that exist, are largely topical not systemic (in other words you don’t have to swallow the stuff) (CDC, 1999); and

• The fluoridating agent used to fluoridate more than 90 percent of fluoridated systems in the United States is not food grade but a hazardous industrial waste product recovered from the scrubbing systems of the phosphate fertilizer industry. Are we talking public interest here or corporate profit?

More information on this issue, including full references to the citations above, can be found on the web page of the Fluoride Action Network at http://www.fluoridealert.org. I urge readers to compare the “Fluoridation Facts” section here with the “Fluoridation Facts” prepared by the ADA, which can be accessed through their webpage at www.ada.org. Hear both sides.

However, a word of caution: When the average citizen starts to read up on this controversy it gets a little overwhelming. The promoters capitalize on this problem by urging people to “trust” in the authority of agencies like the CDC and figureheads like the U.S. Surgeon General.

However, on this issue I am afraid they cannot be trusted. They are following a 50-year-old political agenda, not a scientific one.

For example, the paper that is supposed to support the CDC’s claim that fluoridation is one of the Top 10 medical achievements of the 20th century (CDC, 1999) is six years out of date on the health studies they cite to support their claims of safety.

The CDC also claims that the decline in dental decay in the United States over the last 30 years is due to fluoridation, when the same declines, or greater, have been achieved in most non-fluoridated industrialized countries.

I urge people to make a judgement based upon which side is prepared to support its arguments with up-to-date references (see “50 reasons for Opposing Fluoridation” on our web page) and which side is prepared to defend its arguments in open public debate.