Fluoride Action Network



Although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers fluoridation of community water systems (CWSs) to be a major public health achievement responsible for reducing dental disease, recent epidemiologic evidence suggests that chronic exposure to population-relevant levels of fluoride may also be associated with adverse child neurodevelopmental outcomes. To our knowledge, a nationally representative database of CWS fluoride concentration estimates that can be readily linked to US epidemiologic cohorts for further study is not publicly available. Our objectives were to evaluate broad regional and sociodemographic inequalities in CWS fluoride concentrations across the US, and to determine if county-level racial/ethnic composition was associated with county-level CWS fluoride.


We generated CWS-level (N?=?32,495) and population weighted county-level (N?=?2152) fluoride concentration estimates using over 250,000 routine compliance monitoring records collected from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Third Six Year Review (2006-2011). We compared CWS-level fluoride distributions across subgroups including region, population size served, and county sociodemographic characteristics. In county-level spatial error models, we also evaluated geometric mean ratios (GMRs) of CWS fluoride per 10% higher proportion of residents belonging to a given racial/ethnic subgroup.


4.5% of CWSs (serving >2.9 million residents) reported mean 2006-2011 fluoride concentrations ?1500?µg/L (the World Health Organization’s guideline for drinking water quality). Arithmetic mean, 90th, and 95th percentile contaminant concentrations were greatest in CWSs reliant on groundwater, located in the Southwest and Eastern Midwest, and serving Semi-Urban, Hispanic communities. In fully adjusted spatial error models, the GMR (95% CI) of CWS fluoride per a 10% higher proportion of county residents that were Hispanic/Latino was 1.16 (1.10, 1.23).

Impact statement

We find that over 2.9 million US residents are served by public water systems with average fluoride concentrations exceeding the World Health Organization’s guidance limit. We also find significant inequalities in community water system fluoride concentration estimates (2006-2011) across the US, especially for Hispanic/Latino communities who also experience elevated arsenic and uranium in regulated public drinking water systems. Our fluoride estimates can be leveraged in future epidemiologic studies to assess the potential association between chronic fluoride exposure and related adverse outcomes.

Available online at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41370-023-00570-w



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Funders who supported this work.