Previous meta-analyses have mainly focused on studies conducted in endemic fluorosis areas with relatively high fluoride concentrations. These are impoverished rural communities in China, India, and Iran, and the findings cannot be generalised to developed countries. Therefore, we investigated the association between fluoride concentrations relevant to community water fluoridation and children’s cognition measured with IQ scores by synthesising effect sizes reported in observational studies.
A previous meta-analysis and the National Toxicology Program database that included a search of multiple databases and the authors’ search of PubMed, Google Scholar, and Mendeley provided the data. Cross-sectional and cohort studies examining the association between fluoride and children’s cognition and intelligence scores were selected. Two reviewers abstracted data using standard procedures. We performed three meta-analyses to synthesise the effects using the random effects models.
Eight studies of standardized mean difference in IQ scores from non-endemic fluorosis areas found no statistically significant difference between recommended and lower levels of fluoride (standardized mean difference = 0.07; 95% confidence interval: ?0.02, 0.17; I2 = 0%), and no significant fluctuation in IQ scores across the differences in fluoride concentrations by non-linear modeling with restricted cubic spline (P = 0.21). Meta-analyses of children’s and maternal spot urinary fluoride associated pooled regression coefficients (Betachildren = 0.16; 95% confidence interval: ?0.40, 0.73; P = 0.57; I2 = 0%, Betamaternal = ?0.92; 95% CI: ?3.29, 1.46; P = 0.45; I2 = 72%) were not statistically significant. Further regression analysis by standardizing absolute mean IQ scores from lower fluoride areas did not show a relationship between F concentration and IQ scores (Model Likelihood-ratio test: P-value = 0.34.)
These meta-analyses show that fluoride exposure relevant to community water fluoridation is not associated with lower IQ scores in children. However, the reported association observed at higher fluoride levels in endemic areas requires further investigation.