Like many of our professional colleagues, we long held a belief that water fluoridation was beneficial and relatively low-risk. We now feel otherwise. We are convinced that it is of small benefit and carries an unacceptably large risk.
What changed our thinking so dramatically?
While reviewing medical studies for a new book, we were shocked to learn about the disturbing fluoride-thyroid connection.
We had been a prevention-oriented doctor-nurse team for twenty-five years. We’ve raised three children and have always viewed dental care as an integral part of a complete health program.
After training at Harvard and Walter Reed respectively, Richard worked at the National Institutes of Health and Karilee as a nursing professor, before settling into private practice.
Nothing on our medical paths shook our faith in fluoride. In fact, it was not until we were working with a New York publisher that we really did our homework on fluoridation. The topic of our book, Thyroid Power (HarperCollins 2001), was the unexplained skyrocketing of thyroid disease and its spin-off epidemics of fatigue, depression, anxiety, infertility, and overweight.
While researching influences on the thyroid gland, we were astounded by the large number of fluoride citations. We were confronted with long lists of articles from scientists around the world reporting in medical journals about the harmful effects of fluoride.
We discovered that in the history of history thyroid treatment, fluoride has previously been used by the medical profession to deliberately slow down overactive thyroid glands.
At first this data challenged our medical and nursing education. But then we recalled being taught that no substance has just one action on the human body. Every medicine has a good action, called “the benefit,” and other less desirable actions, called “side effects.”
In hindsight, it did seem odd that fluoridated water was touted as the only substance ever discovered that had a great benefit with no side effects at all. And it became similarly curious that fluoride was the only medicine ever to be added to public drinking waters.
At this point, we felt compelled to investigate further. After reviewing hundreds of articles and books, it became clear that, regardless of any other benefits and side effects, fluoride was a “hormone disruptor” – a class of chemicals that have the unintended consequence of altering the proper function of important hormones in the body, such as thyroid.
In the Archives of Oral Biology (1982, Volume 27), Kleiner found that fluoride interfered with proper metabolism of cyclic-AMP and thus diminished cellular energy.
A career university scientist showed us a textbook about the mechanisms of fluoride tissue harm. Kenneth Kirk in his carefully written volume called Biochemistry of the Elemental Halogens and Inorganic Halides, described fluoride’s remarkable disruption of enzyme systems.
We then consulted with a toxicology expert, who explained that fluoride progressively disrupts the sensitive G-proteins. These are the building blocks of our body’s hormone receptors. Subsequent research on fluoride/thyroid was just as worrisome.
While it’s well known that fluoride is acutely poisonous and caustic at high concentrations, we now wanted to know whether the concentrations in municipal water could help teeth without thyroid harm.
The data showed otherwise. Research by Galletti and Joyet, published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that fluoride in the range of 2-5 mg. per day (what people now ingest in a fluoridated area) was enough to slow down thyroid function.
Thus, we came out “against fluoride” in our Thyroid Power book.
But fluoride is not simply isolated problem for identified thyroid patients. As a widespread hormone disruptor it is very likely to be causing wider mischief, even at supposed safe levels.
This larger environmental issue became the topic of our more recent book, Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled? (Hudson/Penquin, 2005),
With fluoride added to city water, millions of people are deliberately exposed to a hormone-altering agent. There is now a massive epidemic of low thyroid, low adrenal, and low functioning sex glands. Many people rightly complain, “There must be something wrong with my hormones.”
Fluoride is, of course, just one of a great many environmental hormone disruptors. However, it is the only one we purposely put into our water.
Perhaps the most sensitive among us are like the canaries brought down into the mines. They might be feeling the adverse effects first. Their vague symptoms of ill health could be the early warning signal for us all.
Richard L. Shames MD & Karilee H. Shames PhD, RN practice in Sonoma and Marin Counties and authors of three popular books for thyroid patients: ThyroidPower, Feeling Fat Fuzzy or Frazzled, Thyroid Mind Power