• Fluoride

last modified September 10, 2018 by strypey

Uncontested Facts about Fluoride

  •  Fluoride is a generic term covering a wide range of chemical compounds that contain the element fluorine
  • An overdose of fluorides can lead to dental fluorosis, which damages teeth

World Health Organisation, 'Risks to Oral Health and Intervention' (Accessed: 08/02/2014)

2004: Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, WHO, 'Effective use of fluorides for the prevention of dental caries in the 21st century: the WHO approach' 

  • Some water fluoridation schemes uses Hydrofluorosilicic Acid (HFA) sourced from the fertilizer industry
2016: Dentistry.co.uk, 'Water fluoridation decisions can now be made at local level'
  • One of the sources of HFA used in fluoridation in New Zealand is Ballance, a farmer-owned cooperative manufacturing superphosphate fertilizer

2014: letter from Thames Coromandel District Council in response to an OIA request using FYI.org.nz, 'Chemicals used by local authorities in water fluoridation programs and their sources'

  • The HFA provided by Orica NZ is know to contain measurable levels of heavy metals including Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Lead, Manganese, Mercury, Molybdenum, Nickel, Selenium

2014: independent analysis report included with a letter from Palmerston North City Council in response to an OIA request using FYI.org.nz, 'Chemicals used by local authorities in water fluoridation programs and their sources' (WebCitation copy)


 Claims and Counterclaims about Fluoride

Health Effects and Dosage

 1. Fluoride can be toxic to humans

Dr Gianino, 'Where Does Fluoride Come From', "Too much fluoride can be potentially harmful" (Accessed 09/02/2014)

 1. Fluoride is safe for human consumption below 1ppm (parts per million, or about 1 milligram per litre of water).

 2. Fluoride has no measurable benefits to human teeth

2a. Fluoride is not improving dental health for poorer populations in the US despite increases in the scope of fluoridation programs there

 2. Fluoride improves the health of human teeth

Both 1 and 2 are claimed in this review of studies by the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, published Dec, 2007 

3. Excessive fluoride causes skeletal fluorosis

3a. Dental fluorosis is an external sign of fluoride poisoning

3. Fluoride does not cause skeletal fluorosis below 1ppm.

3a. Dental fluorosis only affects appearance, not health

 4. Fluoride dosage per person cannot possibly be determined when it is in drinking water 4. Fluoride dosage in drinking water, while variable, cannot reach toxic levels in human when present in water under 1ppm.

5. It is not safe to use fluoridated water to make up baby formula

5. "You can use fluoridated water for preparing infant formula." - US Centres for Disease Control, 'Overview: Infant Formula and Fluorosis'

"Dental fluorosis may be considered to be the only risk at these low doses and from our work it is estimated that there is a very low risk of moderate dental fluorosis of the permanent dentition in infants exposed to fluoride at these levels." - Anderson WA et al

2004: Anderson WA, et al, "A probabilistic estimation of fluoride intake by infants up to the age of 4 months from infant formula reconstituted with tap water in the fluoridated regions of Ireland." Caries Research 38: 421-9.   

6. Fluoridation leads to lower IQs and other evidence of brain damage

2012: Choi et al, 'Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis' (statement from the lead authors)

6. Studies on IQ have focused on China, which has fluoride levels far higher than those used in water fluoridation, so their results cannot be extrapolated to water fluoridation in other countries 

7. Water fluoridation is associated with Attention Deficity Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

2015: Malin et al, 'Exposure to fluoridated water and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder prevalence among children and adolescents in the United States: an ecological association'

7. The proposed link between water fluoridation and ADHD is statistically significant, and as the study authors say "warrants further study", but it doesn't prove anything.

8.Fluoride exposure increases a person's chances of having an under-active thyroid gland, with effects measured at levels lower than 1mg per litre (1ppm or 'parts per million')

2015: Peckham et al, 'Are fluoride levels in drinking water associated with hypothyroidism prevalence in England? A large observational study of GP practice data and fluoride levels in drinking water'

8. The epidemiological evidence for the thyroid effect is weak "as epidemiological evidence goes, this is about as weak as it gets." - Professor David Coggon, professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Southampton. Fluoride dosage in drinking water, while variable, cannot reach toxic levels in human when present in water under 1ppm.

9. The 2000 York review's main finding was that there was no high quality research on fluoride and health, and in 2003 the authors of the York review publicly stated that no review conducted since has come to more reliable conclusions. In 2015, the highly respected scientific review group the Cochrane Collaboration carried out a review of water fluoridation studies via the Cochrane Oral Health Group, 'Water fluoridation for the prevention of dental caries', concluding that the the risk of bias in many studies of fluoridation is high, and that "Our confidence in the size of effect shown for the prevention of tooth decay is limited due to the high risk of bias in the included studies and the fact that most of the studies were conducted before the use of fluoride toothpaste became widespread."

2000: McDonagh et al, NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York, UK, commissioned by UK Department of Health, 'Systematic review of water fluoridation'

2015: Cochrane Collaboration, 'Water fluoridation for the prevention of dental caries'

9. The science on fluoridation is as settled as that on climate change, as many systematic reviews of the scientific literature on fluoride have found that the evidence shows it to be safe and effective

2000: Dr Michael Bates, commissioned by NZ Ministry of Health, 'Fluoridation of water supplies – an evaluation of the recent  epidemiological evidence'

2007: Dr Kristina Coleman, Dr Charles Harvey and Dr Adele Weston of Health Technology Analysts Pty Ltd, commissioned by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC, Australia), 'Public Statement: Efficacy and Safety of Fluoridation' (results reaffirmed in 2013)

2008: Yeung, CA (commissioned by NHMRC), 'A systematic review of the efficacy and safety of fluoridation'

10. Water fluoridation and Climate Change are entirely unrelated issues. While there are anti-fluoridationists who don't believe in anthropogenic climate change, there is also significant overlap with environmentalists who campaign against carbon-emitting industries and believe anthropogenic climate change is happening.

10a. See point 8. above. A number of reviews of the scientific literature on water fluoridation have been carried out, with mixed results.

10. "Anti-fluoridation lobby and climate denyers have a lot in common." - Jude Ball, Research Fellow, Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington

10a. "Both discredited by 99% of scientists." - Jude Ball, Research Fellow, Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington

"The science is effectively settled" - Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of NZ

11. Materials used in dental work release fluorides into the body

2009: Sayed Mostafa Mousavinasab and Ian Meyers, 'Fluoride Release by Glass Ionomer Cements, Compomer and Giomer'

11. Fluorides released by dental materials are not a risk to health

Chemical Characteristic of Fluorides

1. Only calcium fluoride occurs naturally in groundwater, not the sodium fluoride or silicofluorides used in water fluoridation

 2. When fluorides dissolve in water the fluoride ions are separated off from the rest of the molecules, so it doesn't matter what fluorine containing compounds are used in fluoridation

2a. Sodium fluorides are produced by volcanoes, and find their way into groundwater, so they (and by extension silicofluorides) are naturally occurring

 2. The fluorides used in water fluoridation and toothpaste manufacture originated as byproducts of industry, effectively a form of toxic waste - Vote Out Fluoride 

 2. The fluorides used in water fluoridation and toothpaste manufacture are co-products" of industrial processes, but this has no impact on their safety

"There is no chemical difference between fluoride added to a water system and the natural fluoride found in the water."

2005: Vermont Department of Health, 'Fluoride'

 3. Even calcium fluoride can be manufactured from industrial waste
 3. Just because such a patent exists, that doesn't mean this is how fluorides used in fluoridation are produced.

4. Of the heavy metals in the Hydrofluorosilicic Acid (HFA) provided by Orica NZ, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, are all known to be highly dangerous, and to bioaccumulate (they build up in the body over time and are difficult or impossible for the body to eliminate).

2014: independent analysis report including with a letter from Palmerston North City Council in response to an OIA request using FYI.org.nz, 'Chemicals used by local authorities in water fluoridation programs and their sources' (WebCitation copy)

4a. All contaminants are removed from fluoridation chemicals before they are added to drinking water

4b. There are heavy metals don't matter because the quantities added to drinking water with the fluorides are so small once watered down.

Social Justice and Medical Ethics

 1. Medicating people with fluoride goes against basic medical ethics, and the human right to be medicated only with one's informed consent

 1. Fluoridation adjusts the natural levels of fluoride in the water, and therefore is not a medication, so health care rights and medical ethics do not apply.

2. Chlorine treats the water, not the person drinking it, and is a separate issue which needs to be considered on its own merits. 2. Fluoride is equivalent to the chlorine used to kill bacteria in drinking water.
3. People can choose to buy non-iodized table salt as easily as they can choose to buy iodized. It is difficult if not impossible to avoid consuming water from fluoridated public supplies. Even if one has access to rainwater collection, well water, or water filtration at home, what about when one is not home and dependent on the publicly available supply?  3. Fluoride is equivalent to the iodine added to table salt to prevent goitre and other diseases caused by iodine deficiency
4.  Public health concerns overrule people's desire to have fluoride delivered via water fluoridation 4. Public health concerns overrule people's right to informed consent in the case of water fluoridation
5. If public health concerns are cited to allow a significant majority's right to impose fluoridated water on those who do not consent, this is a "tyranny of the majority".  5. If the concerns of a minority who oppose fluoridation are allowed to take water fluoridation away from a majority who either support or are not concerned about fluoridation, this is a 'tyranny of the minority'.

 6. Fluoridation of drinking water disadvantages poor people who struggle to afford to buy water filters or bottled water, or to collect water from an uncontaminated supply

 6. Fluoridation of drinking water helps poor people who can't afford fluoride supplement, and filters are cheap

 2012: L McLaren Phd, JCH Emery Phd, 'Drinking water fluoridation and oral health inequities in Canadian children'

7. Filters can't remove fluoride as the particles involved are too small. 7. Fluorides dissolved in water are anions, not particles, and certain kinds of water filters (steam distillation,  anion exchange, surface adsorption and reverse osmosis) are effective at removing all fluoride from drinking water.
8. Poor people already buy fluoridated toothpaste, even assuming fluorides can have dental benefits, no further supplements are needed 8. Low-income families may not be able to afford to buy toothpaste
9. Free dental care is a more effective and more ethical way to improve dental health than water fluoridation, for example a return to dental nurses in schools, or an oral health education program modelled on Scotland's CHILDSMILE program. 9. Free dental care and other measures are much more expensive and difficult to deliver than water fluoridation.

Economics, Public Relations and Media Representation

1. Ongoing pro-fluoridation campaigns are run by a number of organisations, including NZ Dental Association+ , "a profit-making organisation that receives funding streams from corporate interests such as Colgate. The NZDA has a paid representative to defend water fluoridation" - Fluoride Free NZ

The NZ Ministry of Health and District Health Boards also spend significant money promoting fluoridation, "Last year the Waikato District Health Board spent $47,000 defending fluoridation." - Fairfax News

The NZ public also pays for a pro-fluoride website called "Fluoride Facts; Effective, Safe, Affordable", and until Jan, 2015, paid for the National Fluoride Information Service , and its PR contractor Four Winds Communications.

1a. Pro-fluoridationists are well know for organised trolling of media outlets, such as Sarah Bronte+ , a member of Society for Science Based Medicine+ , along with Daniel Ryan of Making Sense of Fluoride , dragging them before the Press Council for promoting anti-fluoridation public meetings without explicitly slanting the story towards the pro perspective is classic example.

1. "The dental researchers don't have an organised campaign to harass city councils to keep fluoride in water, whereas the anti side does" - Dr Jonathon Broadbent quoted by Fairfax News

1a the SunLive article in question was blatantly unbalanced, and slanted towards the views of the Tauranga convenor of Fluoride Free New Zealand, with controversial opinions stated as facts, and the Press Council was correct to uphold the complaint by Tauranga dentist Sarah Bronte.

2. The majority of the fluoridation products used in New Zealand are supplied by Orica NZ, the local subsidiary of a multinational mining and chemical company headquartered in Australia, and active in 50 countries, meaning that large sums of NZ public health money are being given to a foreign corporation to pollute our drinking water. 2. Water fluoridation chemicals must be manufactured and supplied by a company with sufficient capacity and supply networks.
3. Continuation of water fluoridation serves the financial interests of the fertilizer manufacturers (eg Ballance ) and other companies whose toxic waste is bought for fluoridation, and the companies like Orica NZ who distribute it to Councils for us. This is "hard to see" because government health agencies and other front groups like Making Sense of Fluoride pass along their media talking points for them.
3. "It's hard to see a financial motive behind the pro-fluoride camp." - Jude Ball, Research Fellow, Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington
4. As fluoridation equipment ages there is money to be made in replacing it, so companies that want these contracts are part of a pro-industry campaign to keeping fluoridation happening
4. There's no evidence that public health policy on fluoridation is affected by the lobbying of equipment supply or maintenance companies
5. It's true that this paper has been retracted, but only because it broke that journal's publishing policies relating to the originality of the research presented in the paper, not because the scientific accuracy of either the research or the article was challenged, as Making Sense of Fluoride misleadingly imply. In fact, every one of the retracted articles they list has been retracted on grounds of "publication policy", or "copyright questions". Although their list is circumstantial evidence of a pattern of retracting papers that support anti-fluoridationist conclusions for petty, technical reasons, they provide no evidence that the science presented in any of these papers in unreliable.

5. In some cases, anti-fluoridationists cite peer-reviewed articles as evidence, without realising they have been retracted, for example:

Serum Fluoride Level and Children’s Intelligence Quotient in Two Villages in China (2010) from Environmental Health Perspectives.

 6. The savings estimated by some studies have been grossly exaggerated

2015: Ko L, Thiessen KM, 'A critique of recent economic evaluations of community water fluoridation'

 6a. Reducing sugar intake is the single best way to reduce dental cavities, but this approach has been blocked by decades of corporate PR.

 6. Fluoridation is the most cost effective way to improve dental health

 2016: Sapere Research Group , 'Review of the Benefits and Costs of Water Fluoridation in New Zealand'

 2015: Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, 'A Cost Effectiveness Analysis of Community Water Fluoridation in New Zealand'

6a. Reducing sugar intake does reduce the incidence of dental cavities, but this is not a realistic way to improve dental health compared to water fluoridation.

 Points of Interest

 Primary Sources


 News Coverage



 Improvement Notes

2018-09-10: check that all linked pages are archived by either Archive.org, Archive.is, or Webcitation.org