Fluoride Action Network



Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance that is also added to drinking water, dental hygiene products, and food supplements for preventing dental caries. Concerns have been raised about several other potential health risks of fluoride.


To conduct a robust synthesis of evidence regarding human health risks due to exposure to fluoride in drinking water, and to develop a point of departure (POD) for setting a health-based value (HBV) for fluoride in drinking water.


A systematic review of evidence published since recent reviews of human, animal, and in vitro data was carried out. Bradford Hill considerations were used to weigh the evidence for causality. Several key studies were considered for deriving PODs.


The current review identified 89 human studies, 199 animal studies, and 10 major in vitro reviews. The weight of evidence on 39 health endpoints was presented. In addition to dental fluorosis, evidence was considered strong for reduction in IQ scores in children, moderate for thyroid dysfunction, weak for kidney dysfunction, and limited for sex hormone disruptions.


The current review identified moderate dental fluorosis and reduction in IQ scores in children as the most relevant endpoints for establishing an HBV for fluoride in drinking water. PODs were derived for these two endpoints, although there is still some uncertainty in the causal weight of evidence for causality for reducing IQ scores in children and considerable uncertainty in the derivation of its POD. Given our evaluation of the overall weight of evidence, moderate dental fluorosis is suggested as the key endpoint until more evidence is accumulated on possible reduction of IQ scores effects. A POD of 1.56?mg fluoride/L for moderate dental fluorosis may be preferred as a starting point for setting an HBV for fluoride in drinking water to protect against moderate and severe dental fluorosis. Although outside the scope of the current review, precautionary concerns for potential neurodevelopmental cognitive effects may warrant special consideration in the derivation of the HBV for fluoride in drinking water.


  • Fluoride
  • drinking water
  • systematic review
  • dose-response
  • point of departure
  • health-based value
  • weight of evidence
  • dental fluorosis
  • childhood IQ
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • kidney dysfunction
  • sex hormone disruptions

See full-text study online at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408444.2023.2295338


Figure 1. Risk assessment strategy for fluoride health effects.


Note: See the Health Canada Summary Report of the expert panel members of this study.