Fluoride: Friend or Foe?

For over half a century the government has been telling the public that fluoride is safe and beneficial. It is supposed to reduce cavities; manufacturers add it to toothpaste, and municipalities to their water supplies. Supposedly the only ones who opposed fluoridation were a few lunatics on the far right alleging a Communist conspiracy. Now it seems the left is concerned about it as well.

The Green Party, which is hardly an advocate of laissez faire, has come out solidly against mandatory fluoridation, and for good reason. The Greens point out what more mainstream opponents of fluoridation have know for years, that tooth decay is caused by poor dental hygiene and high consumption of refined sugar products. In fact, it may even give people a false sense of security, by making them feel that they can neglect good dental hygiene in lieu of fluoride. In fact nothing cold be further from the truth.1

To add any type of substance to our water supply to medicate everyone, with the belief that it will help a few, is patently unethical. What's even worse is the wealth of information that cites the massive health risks involved in conjunction with using this substance. Unless it can be deemed safe, it should not be added to the water supply.

However, fluoride is a known toxin, slightly less toxic than arsenic and more poisonous than lead. The industrial chemicals used to fluoridate over 90 percent of fluoridated water in the United States, (fluorosilicate acid and sodium silicofluoride), are by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry and have never been tested for safety or effectiveness. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), has declared the substance to be a hazardous waste and made it illegal to dump at sea. In addition, the EPA has declared that there is no "empirical scientific data on the effects of fluorosilicate acid or sodium silifluoride on health and behavior" in its possession.2

No doubt, that is why the conservationist group, the Sierra Club, in September of 2001, expressed its concern regarding the potential adverse impact of fluoridation on the environment, wildlife, and human health. It went on to recommend that safer alternatives be made available and supports communities being given the option of rejecting mandatory fluoridation of their water supplies.

If more diverse groups are growing increasingly skeptical of fluoridation, then what are the reasons?

Probably because fluorides are medically categorized as poisonous, which is why they are used to kill rodents.3 In fact, the substance is a cumulative poison, half of which is stored in the human bones. This increases their density, but make them more brittle and subject to fracture.4

Fluoride consumption by humans has other dangerous side effects as well. The substance disrupts the synthesis of collagen and leads to breakdown in the bone, tendon, skin, cartilage, lungs, trachea, and kidney. It also inhibits the formation of antibodies in the blood, has a disruptive effect on various tissues in the body, confuses the immune system causing it to attack its own tissues, as well as increases the tumor growth and the general cancer rate.5 The substance has also been linked to cancer, low IQs in children, genetic disorders and muscle degeneration.

The preceding might be tolerable if it could be shown conclusively that the substance reduces cavities. However, the decay rate has been declining worldwide over the past half century.6 This decrease occurred irrespective of the country's fluoride status. Western Europe which is 98 percent non-fluoridated has seen the same decline in cavities as the US which is 65 percent fluoridated. In fact, the largest dental survey ever conducted in the US found that there was virtually no difference in tooth decay rates between children in fluoridated versus non-fluoridated cities. The study, which was conducted by the National Institute of Dental Research, NIDR, found that the average difference between tooth decay between children living in fluoridated areas versus non-fluoridated areas was less than 0.5 percent.7 In New York State, the Department of Health decided to turn its emphasis away from fluoridation of water and toward the use of topical sealants and fluoride rinses. While the Department is still in favor of fluoridation, it has ceased funding it.8

Originally it was believed that fluoride prevented tooth decay solely by being incorporated into the teeth as they formed in childhood. However, today dental researchers question that theory.9 Primarily what has been found, is that a number of factors including fluoride influence changes on the tooth surface. While fluoride in plaque inhibits conversion of sugars to acids and helps maintain higher pH levels allowing for re-growth of enamel, the fluoride in saliva and plaque may be just as important in preventing tooth decay and just as easily provided by toothpaste as what is ingested involuntarily in the water supply. For many years, dentists believed that fluoridation of water supplies reduced tooth decay by 50–60 percent. However, a great deal of evidence indicates that water fluoridation reduces dental caries much less. In fact, some research suggests little or no reduction.10

The former director of Dental Health Services for the British Columbia Ministry of Health, found that the average number of decayed, missing or filled permanent teeth, (DMFT), in British Columbia where only 11 percent of the population used fluoridated water, was lower than in parts of Canada where 40 to 70 percent of the people drank fluoridated water. School districts in the province with the greatest percentage of children with no tooth decay are totally non-fluoridated.11 While this phenomenon could have been caused by other factors as well, it is interesting to note the role that diet played. Most people whose diet included little refined sugar and few processed foods had very low rates of tooth decay. In developing countries where only small amounts of sucrose and refined foods are eaten, decay rates are often lower than in developed nations! In addition, all other things being equal, areas in the developed world where the socio-economic status is higher tend to have less tooth decay.12

The difficulty with the earlier studies between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas is that none of them controlled the non-fluoride variables. As a result, scientists have come to view them as only part of the evidence needed to evaluate fluoride's benefits.

Studies conducted in eight countries revealed that dental caries is just as great in non-fluoridated as in fluoridated areas. The conclusion drawn from these data is that fluoridation of the water supply is not as important to preventing tooth decay, as many believe. While some of the decline might be explained by the introduction of fluoridated toothpaste, tablets, and mouth rinses, decay rates in non-fluoridated areas began to fall long before these were available. Changes in nutrition, oral hygiene, and possibly the immune status of the population may account for part of the decline.13

Researchers at the National Institute for Dental Research, (NIDR), also noted in the Journal of the American Dental Association that the current decline in caries in the United States and other Western industrialized countries, had been observed in both fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities, with the percentage reduction about the same.14

Research conducted in the 1930's and 1940's, showed that the instance of dental caries was most effectively reduced where the natural fluoride level of the water supply was 1ppm or above.15 However, five studies in Sweden, India, Japan, the US, and New Zealand do not support this trend. In the Japanese study, children in an area with water containing 0.3 to 0.4ppm fluoride had the lowest decay rates, while above and below that range caries prevalence increased rapidly, contradicting the central tenet of fluoride theory that the ideal level is about 1ppm.16

The economic benefits of fluoridation are also in question. In one study reported in the Journal of the American Dental Association the cost of dental care in five non-fluoridated cities in Illinois was compared with costs in similar cities with naturally fluoridated water. Even though dentists' fees and the nature of the treatments in the two groups did not differ significantly, the cost per patient, and average number of dental visits were greater in fluoridated communities.17

In 1997, union members at the EPA voted unanimously to ban water fluoridation citing evidence of cancer, lower IQs, genetic damage, neurological damage, and bone pathology. In addition, that same year, fluoridated toothpaste began carrying a health warning.

Obviously the American Dental Association opposed such warning primarily because it makes millions of dollars from the "accreditation" of fluoride products and did not wish to see a health warning for its mega buck earner.

If someone is genuinely convinced of the effectiveness of fluoride, one can always buy fluoridated toothpaste. It is readily available and actually costs LESS than the non-fluoridated brands. Obviously that is the individual consumer's choice. However, if the government has its way, everybody will have to drink this cumulative poison every day!

Fluoridation is not a Commie plot or some greedy capitalist ploy. It's just plain bad medicine.


  1. "The Scientific Fraud of the Century," Darren Johnson, MP Green Party.
  2. IBID
  3. University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, (2001), "Can Fluoride Cause Harm?"
  4. National Research Council, (1993), Health Effects of Ingested Fluoride. National Academy Press, Washington, DC
  5. IBID, Johnson
  6. WHO Oral Health Country/Area Profile Programme.
  7. IFIN Bulletin #290
  8. Bette Hileman, Chemical and Engineering News, 1998.
  9. IBID
  10. IBID
  11. IBID
  12. IBID
  13. www.fluoridealert.org
  14. IBID, Hileman
  15. IBID
  16. IBID
  17. IBID

January 13, 2004