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Fluoride in water, food, dental products

Schedule VI
Somewhat significant
Estimated life impact: 1-5 years
Evidence level: Moderate

TL;DR

Don’t drink fluoridated water (and/or mineral water, as well as water from deep wells). Filter out your water from fluorine if you can. Never give fluorine toothpaste to kids, they will swallow small amounts and that is dangerous. If you can manage, minimize other fluoride-rich products like heavily processed foods, some juices, etc. (But mostly fluoridated water is the most dangerous one.)

Try to minimize fluorine in your own toothpaste, but it’s not as critical as ingesting.

The danger is not acutely life threatening, but there is research that shows statistically significant effects of decreasing IQ in children, cancer and other really serious health problems, so the issue is worth your time researching. Even the rumors of accumulation of fluoride in the pineal gland do have some scientific backing.

How trustworthy is this research?

This topic is somewhat controversial, but there is a lot of research that is hard to ignore that shows negative effects of ingesting high amounts of fluorine. “High” is always a relative word and everything can be poison in high enough doses, but the research shows that it’s easy to get to dangerous doses of fluorine during regular life, from fluoridated water, processed food made with fluoridated water, swallowing small amounts of fluorine toothpaste, etc.

There are some fanboy websites out there, but after due diligence I’ve stumbled upon some other much more reliable sources that communicate the message of fluorine dangers professionally and link to very respected research papers. Ignoring this would be, well ignorant.

The main areas to get some trustworthy sources are http://fluoridealert.org/ and http://www.cleanwatersonomamarin.org/get-the-facts/10-key-papers/

The dangers are real

While there are some other controversial topics (which are the hardest to research properly) for which it’s hard to even figure out if the danger has any merit whatsoever, for fluorine it is pretty clear that even relatively low amounts are dangerous for humans, and the discussion is instead more about what the “safe” amount should be.

Some things to consider:

FDA has added “poison” warnings to toothpastes because of the fluoride http://fluoridealert.org/articles/fda-toothpaste/. The warning is about cases where children swallow some of it, but how much fluoride can there be in toothpaste? This means that even the small doses found in toothpaste (which should be at least comparable to the doses accumulating in food between fluoridated water supplies (in U.S. and others) and processed foods manufactured using fluoridated water), can be dangerous, according even to the FDA. This is not an authority that is quick to jump and change it’s policies on any yellowpress-fueled trend crazes.

In the case of a woman getting skeletal fluorosis from overdosing on tea, it was enough to drink 20-30 cups of tea a day, and experiments showed that the tea can contain about 3ppm (parts per million) of fluoride in the liquid tea. At the same time, some of fluoridated water sources can contain >1ppm in it already! (That’s just in the water itself). Sure, 30 cups of tea is a lot, but consider that for some people their regular water is only 3 times less deadly! And then this water is used in food processing, easily accumulating fluoride in much higher quantities. So the dangerous amounts are right up there.

Finally, the above link has a comprehensive list of other studies showing dangers of fluoride, including effects on measured IQ (“found that some children showed decreased IQ at fluoride concentration levels as low as 1.26 ppm”), “lowered thyroid function”, “accumulation in the pineal gland”, “dental fluorosis” etc. The page does link to specific quoted studies, so it’s pointless to copy them over to this article, but do check it out there.

Advantages of fluoridation are exaggerated

Given the realness of the dangers of fluorine, why do the mainstream health authorities promote it at all? As with most of the pesticides and other measures that can be dangerous to our health, the official story is that all the benefits of fluoridation (well, actually there is only one benefit which is less caries in teeth) outweigh the risks.

Given all this recent research this claim seems to be very overstated, and according to the critics of fluoridation, even the mentioned benefits have been greatly exaggerated.

First of all, there is no research showing that there are any other benefits of fluoride besides those that affect the teeth during local application. There is no scientific reason to ingest any fluoride.

chart_world-tooth-decay-rates_WHOI didn’t care enough to confirm this 100%, but all the anti-fluoride sources seem to agree on the following notion: that the main reason for popularity of fluoridation was the observation of the correlation between better teeth health and increased water fluoridation over the years. However, they say, this is completely mistaken because the increase in teeth health has been going on independently of the water fluoridation, and according to them, is caused by general better routines that people have developed around their taking care of their mouths, and general advances of hygiene practices.

It does actually seem that besides this observed correlation, there is no research showing any beneficial effects of ingesting fluoride for teeth health, nor for anything else.

Where do we get our fluoride from?

Is it really worth to avoid mineral water and filter tap water? Don’t we get a lot of fluoride from other sources anyway?

According to, fluoridealert.org, (and others) “The naturally occurring levels of fluoride in fruits, vegetables, meat, grain, eggs, milk, and fresh water supplies are generally very low (less than 0.1 ppm). There are only three exceptions to this rule that you need to know: seafood, tea, and water from deep wells all have elevated fluoride levels in the absence of human activity. Thus, besides tea, seafood, and deep well water, you don’t have to worry about mother nature adding to your fluoride intake.

Conclusion

Right now, in the light of the existing research, it seems to be wise to avoid fluoridated water, water from deep wells (and thus some municipal water even if they don’t purposefully add fluoride to it), some mineral waters, and those processed products that have a lot of fluorine.

There are advantages for your teeth from fluorine, but 1) those advantages all come from local application on the teeth 2) the advantages are minor.

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