Water Fluoridation: Scientific Or Shameful?

Proponents of fluoridation always present a simple message: fluoridation will prevent cavities; it is safe and effective because dentists, doctors, and a list of agencies say so; and those who oppose fluoridation are uninformed, misguided, and trying to scare people. They say the driving force for their desire to fluoridate is an "oral health crisis" that exists among poor children who cannot get dental services. This message is all about teeth. Opponents of fluoridation are also concerned about teeth, but most of us are just as concerned about the rest of the body and how cumulative doses of fluoride from many sources can potentially be very damaging to the body as well as to the environment.

In fact, opponents see the fluoridation issue as anything but simple. Our concerns are many: ethics and rights issues, legal issues, economic issues. We also have big questions concerning the logic of fluoridation, the political fairness of it, and about the source of the chemical put in the water and its accompanying contaminants. We are also concerned about the poor quality of many of the studies touted by proponents, and the lack of studies that ought to be done by the government to follow up on serious questions raised by research from all over the world as reported in many peer-reviewed, mainstream and other journals. Most disturbing is proponents' absolute dismissal of all scientific evidence raising questions. Furthermore, we wonder why most of the countries of the world have rejected or banned fluoridation and why neither the FDA nor the EPA have ever approved it for safety and effectiveness. Lastly, we are very concerned that, after fifty years of strong claims to the contrary, fluoridation has obviously not been effective in preventing cavities in children.

While it is not possible to discuss all the concerns and questions about this very complex issue in the limited space of this short article, there are a few categories that merit immediate public attention, as outlined below.

Ethics and Rights Concerns

Historically, Boards of Health have been granted a lot of power and authority to implement sweeping, strong-arm policies, such as quarantine, to protect the public health against serious contagion and other widespread life-threatening illnesses and practices. It is an abuse of this power to use it to medicate or even, as proponents like to say, "supplement" an entire population in order to treat a small target population against an unfortunate but not life-threatening or contagious condition that is much better dealt with on an individual basis.

Meanwhile, it is morally reprehensible, if not illegal, to practice medicine on those who do not wish to be treated, either with medication or supplementation. People who don't know me, telling me that fluoride is good for me, does not make it good for me. That decision should be up to me alone, with my own doctor or dentist's input.

Health and Environmental Concerns

Most people are not aware – and proponents never tell – that the chemical used to fluoridate water supplies is an extremely toxic, unrefined, industrial waste product, sourced primarily from the wet air pollution scrubbing systems of the phosphate fertilizer industry. (It is not the "natural element" that proponents like to say it is, although fluoride can be found in nature in other forms.) This is not a myth. The leading fluoride engineer of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), a supporter of fluoridation, recently confirmed this fact in writing. (He calls this waste product a "by-product.") The class of chemical is called a "silicofluoride," with hydrofluosilisic acid being the product predominantly used in drinking water supplies.

In recent years, there has been very serious scientific questioning of the health effects of using this substance, from credible sources and through credible studies. Silicofluorides have never been approved for safety by the EPA or for consumption by the FDA. Additionally, this unrefined waste product contains many contaminants including arsenic, mercury, lead, and radioactive particles, among others. All of these substances, and fluoride itself, in any form, are cumulative. This is a very important fact that counters the proponents' defensive claim that the chemical is in very dilute amounts in the water. Except for those highly sensitive or allergic (and there are plenty), one glass of fluoridated water will never hurt you. But then, neither will one cigarette or one x-ray. We all know what can happen with repeated doses of cumulative toxic substances.

All processed foods and drinks made in fluoridated areas contain fluoride, and even fresh, non-organic produce can contain high concentrations of fluoride from pesticide residue. If you live anywhere near industry, it's very likely to be in the air and soil. Certain medications, particularly some anti-depressants, may be deliberately fluorinated with pharmaceutical fluoride which enables some substances to pass more easily through the blood brain barrier. (This includes aluminum, by the way, the cumulative effects of which have recently been linked to Alzheimer disease.) We are all being over-fluoridated right now, without additional fluoride being added to the water! Our environment and our bodies are being saturated with fluoride.

Dental fluorosis, the spotting and mottling of children's teeth, is quite rampant throughout over-fluoridated America. This is the first sign of fluoride overdose and is certainly not just a "cosmetic effect." Another health effect that has been scientifically well documented, but is only recently being discussed in the general public, is the effect on the thyroid gland. A huge percentage of Americans suffer from thyroid diseases, particularly hypothyroidism. There is sound scientific data supporting the idea that fluoridation exacerbates, if not causes, thyroid disease in many of those afflicted.

There are many other possible negative health effects of fluoridation that are either well known, currently being researched, or speculated about with good reason. These can all be found with references and links in some excellent websites. (See addresses at end of article). This information can be checked for authenticity by doing a bit of library or Medline research.

Economics and Logic The presumption is that fluoride is good for you. Most people don't question this. Is there any other substance that we take into our bodies to which no one is allergic? Or that there is no question about? Even the safety and efficacy of vitamin C, which is essential for the body and has long been proven helpful in many studies, is often questioned if taken in higher than recommended dosages. (But vitamin C is not cumulative, as is fluoride.) I take this vitamin every day, but I still would not want the Board of Health to put it in my water!

Proponents repeat their simple script claiming fluoride's safety and effectiveness while undermining or dismissing each and every person or study that raises serious questions about safety or effectiveness. Are we to believe that all opposing science is "junk science?" Proponents for fluoridation demand respect for their authority, simply because they claim that authority. This approach has nothing to do with science. Science is about questioning. In good science, one doesn't use entire populations as guinea pigs for untested and unapproved substances.

With all these other concerns aside, what kind of logic is it, and how can it be medically safe and economically sound, to put a substance in the water to treat (or "supplement" with a prescription dose) people without knowing: a) about the needs and medical status of each individual you are treating; b) who of the target population you are reaching; c) how much – over or under – of the desired amount is getting to the target population; d) what is the overall dose each individual is getting from all sources; and e) what the synergistic effects may be with other substances in the water and in individual diets. Add these thoughts to the latest dental research that indicates fluoride's benefits come from topical application, as in toothpaste, not systemic ingestion.

Furthermore, over 99% of the fluoridation we pay for that goes into the water does not reach its intended target and is flushed out into the environment. Other hidden costs to individuals and the society are also not mentioned, like the HazMat gear needed to handle the toxic poison, or the expensive cosmetic treatments for dental fluorosis to all the affected children, or treatments for any of the other health effects that may occur as a result of years of fluoridation.

Consider, also, the logical argument that fluoridation is simply not effective in fixing this oral health crisis among poor children. If this practice really were as successful as proponents claim it to be, longtime fluoridated cities around the country would not also be experiencing such crises. Just in Massachusetts, Boston, Lowell, and Taunton, for example, each have at least as bad an oral health crisis as does Worcester. The reason these fluoridated cities can be compared to Worcester, but Shrewsbury and Holden cannot and should not be compared to Worcester (as dentists like to do) is that the former cities and Worcester have the same population that has this crisis, whereas the latter two do not.

Those saying they are trying to fix the oral health crisis should use the correct comparisons and all the facts. The affected children do not get dental services because it is not profitable for dentists to treat these children through Mass Health. In fact, many no longer participate in Mass Health programs. This is a societal problem that has nothing to do with the lack of fluoride in a child's diet. Better nutrition, dental hygiene education, and school dental clinics would go a long way towards solving this crisis. So would the obscenely huge sums of money that regularly go into public relations for brainwashing citizens to vote for fluoridation.

There is something very wrong, indeed, with this fluoride picture. If fluoridation is the emperor, then opponents are noticing the lack of "new clothes." Proponents are content to praise these imaginary new clothes, while undermining those who question. This is not scientific. This is shameful.

Deborah E. Moore, Ph.D., became involved with the fluoridation issue during Worcester's 1996 campaign, and is a founding member of Worcester Citizens for Total Health, the ballot question committee opposing Worcester's mandate for fluoridation. Deborah suggests the following websites for science-based fluoride information: http://www.fluoridealert.org and http://www.fluoridation.com. For basic and Massachusetts-based information, see http://www.saveourwater.org. For information on Worcester's campaign, or to volunteer, please call Worcester Citizens for Total Health at (508) 770-4118 or write to PMB#818, 1102 Pleasant St., Worcester, MA 01602-1232.