Flouride in Water – The Invisible Additive - A close up of a young child smiling at the camera - Smile

If we’re in any of the many fine Duval Street establishments, most of us will try and be prudent enough to keep an eye on our beverage. We’ll generally encounter people just like us, who might just want to have some relaxation and conversation. Surely, though, we’ve heard horror stories of drinks being compromised; we’d like to avoid that unlikely possibility of some new and unsavory ingredients in our libations.

It follows naturally, then, that we might also want to watch what others put in our home refreshments. Thus, when a chemical that’s added to our water became the subject of a research paper last month, many of us might have taken notice.

The paper involved the additive fluoride. Fluoridated tap water is available to about 66% of U.S. residents, 77% of Florida residents, and 100% of Monroe County residents. Over and over again, studies have shown that it helps prevent tooth decay, especially when taken in before the teeth are fully developed. In places with no water fluoridation — such as the New England community where I worked prior to coming to the Keys — fluoride supplements have been recommended for years.

Any time there’s a treatment with that sort of mandate (I’m looking at you, immunizations), there is a healthy tendency to wonder: Is it safe? Effective? While many have continued to ask these questions even as fluoridation’s track record has remained solid, the recent study, which was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has raised new questions.

The study looked at fluoride intake of pregnant women. It was measured both by report (e.g. how much fluoridated water the women thought they drank) and by concentration in the urine. It was found that women with more fluoride exposure had children with an IQ that was on average 3.7 points lower than those with less exposure. The study, though, didn’t uniformly show this: although both measurements showed an effect by Mom’s intake report, only the boys were shown to have an IQ effect when the researchers looked at urine. 

As eye-opening as this was, this is a single study. And when you have thousands of studies saying that fluoridated water is safe and effective, we may, for now, have to take this with a grain of sodium fluoride. Both the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have done just that and continue to recommend fluoride for children. There’s just too much benefit to do otherwise at this time. And when you consider that not all kids — especially those on Medicaid — have easy access to regular professional dental care, it seems even more prudent to prevent dental problems down the road any way we can.

All this said, we will need to stay tuned and see what future studies show. Fluoride recommendations have already been adjusted over the years due to something called fluorosis, a mottling of the teeth due to too much fluoride. But wait — how can we even tell if we’re getting too much in? That’s a lot more difficult than you might think. Not only do we ingest different amounts of tap water, but there’s exposure from swallowed toothpaste and even some foods and beverages. Yes, what you eat and drink may contain a significant amount of fluoride. And that potentially even includes that Duval Street beverage. 

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  1. Most countries avoid fluoridation like the plague.

    The truth is spreading and people everywhere are learning that fluoride in drinking water is ineffective for teeth and dangerous to health. With any drug, we all deserve freedom of choice.
    Consider that 95% of the world rejects fluoridation:
    In the US, 74 % fluoridated (more than the rest of the world combined).
    In Europe, only 3%.
    In the world, only 5%.
    In Canada, now 30% — down from 45% in seven years.
    China, India and Japan have rejected it years ago.

  2. Stanley, you need to do a bit more research. Your claim “when you have thousands of studies saying that fluoridated water is safe and effective” is simply not true. I realise it is repeated ad nausea, but that does not make it true. There are no studies that say fluoridated water is safe. There are not even studies that show the opposite of what the studies on harm show. This latest study is one of five that has looked at maternal-offspring fluoride-brain health, all showing harm. There are no studies to show fluoridated water is safe for pregnant women to consume. And even your belief that fluoridated water is good for teeth is not actually true. You need to look at all the large scale studies that have been carried out. In 2015 the Cochrane Collaboration found there were no moderne, reliable studies to show fluoridated water reduced dental decay. In 1999 the CDC found that the benefit from fluoride was topical not systemic i.e. it doesn’t work from swallowing.
    Therefore, fluoridated water during pregnancy and early childhood is all risk and no purported benefit.

  3. can you comment on the statistical significance of the 3.7 point IQ difference? I assume this was mentioned in the JAMA article? Thanks.

  4. This isn’t the only study to show neurological effects from gestational exposure. Bashash found the same thing in September 2017. This recent study showed that the effects are occurring in Canadian women at common exposures in fluoridated cities. The authors noted that the degree of effect is similar to that lead was having in the 60s. Fluoridation should be suspended until more research is completed.

  5. One more thing. We don’t have “thousands of studies saying fluoridated water is safe and effective”
    With regards to gestational exposure, we have none-at least no Canadian government agency has been able to come up with one.

    What we have is a big bluff by the dental and medical organizations that research demonstrating safety is out there, when most of it is just starting – and it doesn’t look reassuring.

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