Fluorides are properly defined as binary compounds or salts of fluorine and another element. Examples of fluorides include sodium fluoride and calcium fluoride. Both are white solids. Sodium fluoride readily dissolves in water, but calcium fluoride does not. Since the mid-1940s, sodium fluoride has been added to drinking water supplies and to a variety of dental products, including toothpastes and mouth rinses. Other fluoride compounds that are commonly used for water fluoridation are fluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate.
Water fluoridation has been carried out on the premise that fluoride’s primary benefit to teeth comes from ingestion. However, the consensus among dental researchers today is that fluoride’s limited benefit in preventing dental caries is topical not systemic. Health concerns expressed by opponents have largely been dismissed until recently. Now, evidence is mounting that in an era of fluoridated toothpastes and other consumer dental flouride products, the potential risks from consuming fluoridated water outweigh any potential benefits.
Fluoride is a neurotoxin and is bio-accumulative in the body. The widespread distribution of fluoride in the environment through drinking water, dental products, food and in industry has been shown to cause numerous detrimental health effects. Though most controversy revolves around water fluoridation, fluoride is used in several other industrial applications.
Fluoride is not biochemically needed in the body or necessary for any human metabolic pathway. Not only has been shown to be a neurological toxin, it is an endocrine disrupting substance and in high or accumulative doses can damage the brain, bones, thyroid gland, pineal gland, affect fertility, and is linked to nerve diseases like Parkinson’s. Fluoride toxicity has been shown to cause or exacerbate diabetes, nutrient deficiencies, and kidney disease. Despite commercial ads, there is no such thing as ‘fluoride deficiency.’ Aside from the toxicological concern, the ethical issue is that these silicofluorides, widely used in water fluoridation, are unlicensed medicinal substances, administered to large populations without informed consent or supervision by a qualified medical practitioner.
Water fluoridation started at a time when asbestos lined our pipes, lead was added to gasoline, PCBs filled our transformers and DDT was deemed so “safe and effective” that officials felt no qualms spraying kids in school classrooms and seated at picnic tables. One by one all these chemicals have been banned, but water fluoridation remains untouched. Since the Public Health Service endorsed fluoridation in the 1940s, over 2/3 of United States reservoirs have been fluoridated with sodium fluoride and hydrofluosilicic acid (efforts are continually being made to significantly increase this proportion), the waste by-products of the aluminum and phosphate fertilizer industries. Substances that would cost these industries millions to store at Class 1 Hazardous Waste Sites, are instead sold to communities at great profit and added into our drinking water. Currently, the United States has more people drinking fluoridated water than the rest of the world combined. Most developed nations, including all of Japan, China and 97% of western Europe, do not fluoridate their water.
Healthy adult kidneys excrete only 50 to 60% of the fluoride ingested each day (Marier & Rose 1971). Infants and children excrete less fluoride from their kidneys and take up to 80% of ingested fluoride into their bones (Ekstrand 1994). Not only does fluoride accumulate in the body, largely in calcifying tissues such as the bones, but it also targets and accumulates in the pineal gland. When fluoride accumulates in our pineal gland, it possibly lowers the production of melatonin, a very important regulatory hormone (Luke, 1997, 2001).
Too much fluoride over a long time when teeth are forming under the gums can cause dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is a developmental disturbance of enamel which occurs during enamel forming. It is caused by systemic overexposure to fluoride during the first six years of life, when the enamel of the crowns of permanent teeth is formed. The enamel contains more protein, is porous, opaque and less transparent. Clinical manifestation varies from (quantitative) narrow, white horizontally running lines, larger patches or yellow to light brown colored areas of porous enamel, to (qualitative) loss of enamel in varying degrees.
The fluoride concentration in bone steadily increases over a lifetime (US National Research Council). Thus, fluoride accumulates in our bones and has been shown to make them more brittle and prone to fracture. Essentially, excess fluoride severely damages bone matrix formation and prevents hardening of bones. The weight of evidence from animal studies, clinical studies and epidemiological studies on this is overwhelming. Lifetime exposure to fluoride will contribute to higher rates of hip fracture in the elderly. There are also concerns about a possible connection between fluoridation and osteosarcoma in young men (Bassin 2006; Cohn, 1992), as well as water fluoridation and the current epidemic of hypothyroidism. Fluoride is a halogen and can compete with iodine -another halogen – on thyroid receptors. This can inhibit the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine to create thyroxin. By far the most damming research on fluoride toxicity has focused on its detrimental effect on cognitive development and decreased IQ in children.
It has been shown by several researchers that water fluoridation is ineffective in reducing caries and that the decline in caries observed in various countries is not due to fluorides, but rather to improved hygiene and nutrition. This is supported by the fact that irrespective of whether the country ever fluoridated its water, rates of dental caries have declined. Indeed, most western countries do not fluoridate their water and yet their tooth decay rates have declined at the same rate as the U.S. and other fluoridated countries.
Some of the earliest opponents of water fluoridation were biochemists precisely because of fluoride’s known poisonous interactions with enzymes, the proteins which act as the catalysts for over 10,000 or so chemical reactions in the body. Dr. James Sumner, for example, who won a Nobel Prize for his work with crystallization of enzymes, said in the 1950s,
“We ought to go slowly. Everybody knows fluorine and fluorides are very poisonous substances and we use them in enzyme chemistry to poison enzymes, those vital agents in the body. That is the reason things are poisoned, because the enzymes are poisoned and that is why animals and plants die.”
There has been 13 other Nobel Laureates who have objected to fluoridation of water.
Perhaps the most worrisome concern is animal research suggests high levels of fluoride may be toxic to brain and nerve cells. Human epidemiological studies have identified possible links to learning, memory, and cognition deficits, though most have focused on populations with fluoride exposures higher than those typically provided by U.S. water supplies. A 2019 report by the National Toxicology Program (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Institutes of Health) concluded that ‘fluoride is presumed to be a cognitive neurodevelopmental hazard to humans. This conclusion is based on a consistent pattern of findings in human studies across several different populations showing that higher fluoride exposure is associated with decreased IQ or other cognitive impairments in children. Additionally, randomized safety studies done on fluoride supplementation are scarce, very scarce. There is no accurate assessment of just how much fluoride individuals are taking into their bodies from water, dental procedures, and an array of other sources (see below).
In fact, the amount of fluoride now regularly consumed by many people in fluoridated areas exceeds the doses repeatedly linked to IQ loss and other neurotoxic effects; with certain subpopulations standing at elevated risk of harm, including infants, young children, elderly populations, and those with dietary deficiencies, renal impairment, and/or genetic predispositions.
Historically, there has been a delay, often of several decades, between the recognition of the adverse effects of a substance, such as DDT, asbestos and tobacco, and the reduction of exposure to it in the environment. The concern is emerging that as increased knowledge is obtained about the detrimental effects of fluoride from treated water and foods, it will be seen in a much less favorable light than it is viewed in today.
Other Sources of Fluoride
Workplace exposure: Fluoride is an air contaminant in certain industrial workplaces. As a result, workers in many industries – including the aluminum, fertilizer, iron, oil refining, semi-conductor, and steel industries – can be routinely exposed to high levels of fluoride exposure. Thus, airborne fluorides can be a substantial daily source of fluoride intake for certain industrial workers.
Dental products: Many dental products now contain fluoride, including over 95% of toothpaste. Studies show that a significant number of children swallow more fluoride from toothpaste alone than is recommended as a total daily ingestion.
Processed beverages and foods: Even if you do not live in a community that adds fluoride to its water supply, you will still be exposed to fluoridated drinking water. This is because once fluoride is added en masse to water it ends up in almost all processed beverages and foods. In the U.S., studies have shown that sodas, juices, sports drinks, beers, and many other processed foods, including infant foods, now have elevated fluoride levels.
Pesticides: Due bto its neurotoxicity, fluoride (sulfuryl fluoride) has been used as a pesticide and fumigant on stored grain, such as wheat and oats; dried fruit; coffee and cocoa beans; and other foods. It is also used for treatment of bed bugs, termites, rats, and mice. As a result, some food products, particularly grape products, dried fruit, dried beans, cocoa powder, and walnuts, may contain high levels of sulfuryl fluoride. When breathed in, sulfuryl fluoride is rapidly absorbed into the body. There, it breaks down into sulfate, fluoride, and fluorosulfate. These components move in the blood stream to many parts of the body. Collectively, these include the lungs, kidney, spleen, nasal tissues, and brain.
Fluorinated pharmaceuticals: Many pharmaceuticals are fluorinated, meaning they contain a carbon-fluorine bond. Although the carbon-fluoride bond in most drugs is strong enough to resist breaking down into fluoride within the body, this is not always the case as research has found that some fluorinated drugs, including Ciprofloxacin, do break down into fluoride and can thus be a major source of fluoride exposure for some individuals. (Ciprofloxacin differs from other quinolones in that it structurally has a fluorine atom at the 6-25 position)
Mechanically deboned meat: Foods made with mechanically separated meat (e.g., chicken fingers, nuggets, etc.) contain elevated levels of fluoride due to the contamination from bone particles that occurs during the mechanical deboning processed. Mechanically processed chicken meats exhibit the highest levels.
Tea drinks: Tea is a hyperaccumulator of fluoride as tea plants hyper-absorb fluoride from the soil. As a result, tea leaves–particularly old tea leaves–contain elevated levels of fluoride. Brewed black tea averages about 3 to 4 parts ppm fluoride, while commercial iced tea drinks contain between 1 and 4 ppm. As a result of these elevated levels, numerous studies have linked excessive tea consumption to a bone disease (skeletal fluorosis) caused by too much fluoride intake.