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What You Should Know About Fluoride In Drinking Water

Since the 1950s, Americans have been embroiled within an environmental controversy surrounding fluoridation, debating whether or not fluorides—ionic compounds containing the element fluorine—should be added to public water systems. On one side you have a group of scientists from government and industry that argue the addition of fluoride to water protects teeth from decay. On the other side are activists who contend that the risk of fluoridation were inadequately studied and that practice amounted to compulsory medication and was thus a violation of civil liberties.



the two types of fluoride

In order to understand the debate about the toxicity of fluoride, we must first understand that there are two main forms of fluoride. The natural version of fluoride is called calcium fluoride and appears in nature as blue-green fluorite crystals, and thus is in our soil, springs, rivers, deep wells, oceans, and sea food. In fact, sodium fluoride occurs naturally in the body too, and can be found in our bones, teeth, and breast milk¹While calcium fluoride is not something you want in high volumes in your water, it has been labeled as "relatively harmless" by researchers because of its high insolubility¹. It is the calcium that makes it insoluble; the calcium stops the fluoride from entering your bloodstream. Almost all natural bottled waters will contain trace amounts of calcium fluoride because of its presence in nature, which poses no health concerns. 

The second form of fluoride, sodium fluoride, is the synthetic, toxic, industrial sister to the naturally occurring calcium fluoride, and was finally proven to be a neurotoxin when consumed in large amounts in a study done by the world's oldest and most prestigious Lancet Journal

Sodium fluoride doesn't contain calcium, and therefore is highly soluble and easily assimilates into one's bloodstream.²

The safety of sodium fluoride has been hotly debated as cities have been adding it to public water supplies since the 1950's.



Is Fluoride in Drinking Water Bad?

When this topic of discussion is brought up, more often than not, 3 issues are often overlooked.

1) The difference between calcium fluoride and sodium fluoride

2) The amount of fluoride present in the water (measured in parts per million)

3) The amount of calcium present in the water (sometimes referred to as the "hardness" of the water)

We've already addressed point #1: calcium fluoride is highly insoluble and therefore poses no harmful threat -- sodium fluoride is "industrial" fluoride and is highly soluble and because of this can pose health threats. As for point #2, the amount of fluoride present in the water plays a role in its toxicity level. Many people have argued that the fluoridation of public water supplies with sodium fluoride (don't forget -- the evil sister) is at such a low parts per million that it cannot possibly pose any health threats. They also argue that anything in high doses can be harmful. True, but they fail to consider that this also depends largely on how much a person is drinking per day, and if they are receiving sodium fluoride from other sources such as toothpaste and food.

Point #3 is something that should be considered too, because a water source that already contains a significant amount of calcium (a "hard" water) can inhibit the absorption of of the sodium fluoride, re-creating the same self-preserving relationship that happens with calcium fluoride.



So why is sodium fluoride added to my tap water? 

With research published classifying sodium fluoride as a neurotoxin, why would they still want to add it to our municipal water supplies?

Here is one theory: Industrial practices lead to the production of millions and millions of gallons of this liquid hazardous waste. Instead of paying money to properly dispose of this toxic waste, companies make money by selling fluoride to local drinking water suppliers in a highly controversial practice. Sodium fluoride manufactures have been accused of deliberately manipulating their data to create the illusion that sodium fluoride is not toxic and may even reduce the risk of developing cavities. The science is founded upon the notion that fluoride works by binding to tooth enamel which is primarily made up of hydroxyapatite, a crystal composed of calcium, phosphorous, hydrogen and oxygen. By replacing the hydroxyl molecule on hydroxyapatite, fluoride makes the tooth more resistant to acid attack from bacteria. Just how much fluoride protects the teeth isn’t totally clear. Research in the past 15 years has revealed that fluoride primarily works when applied to the teeth in a fluoride rich toothpaste. Ironically, a 2009 study that tracked fluoride exposure in more than 600 children in Iowa found no significant link between fluoride exposure and tooth decay. Likewise, the World Health Organization found that there is no discernible difference in tooth decay between developed countries that fluoridate their water and those that do not. As a whole, uproar has ensued over fluoridation.



sodium fluoride health concerns

According the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, no disease, not even tooth decay, is caused by a ‘fluoride deficiency.’ In addition, not a single biological process has been shown to require fluoride. In 2006, the National Research Council released a report that gave some legitimacy to longtime assertions made by anti fluoridation campaigners. The report stated that the Environmental Protection Agency’s current limit for fluoride in drinking water—4 milligrams per liter—should be lowered because of health risks to both children and adults. In children, exposure to fluoride at that level can actually discolor and disfigure permanent teeth through a condition called dental fluorosis. In adults, the same amount appears to increase the risk of bone fracture as well as a painful stiffening of the joints called moderate skeletal fluorosis. They also argued that fluoride may trigger more serious health problems like bone cancer, brain damage, and thyroid issues. Dr. Dean Burk, biochemist and former chief chemist at the National Cancer Institute of Health believes that “{sodium} fluoride amounts to public murder on a grand scale,” citing some of the most conclusive scientific and biological evidence he has seen in his 50 years of cancer research as the foundation for this claim. The Lancet Journal also detailed that the presence of fluoride in water has lead to a worldwide “pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity” in children ranging from neurodevelopment disabilities including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, to other cognitive impairments. 



Is My Local Water Fluoridated?

Although water suppliers who add sodium fluoride tend to keep levels between 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L, far below the EPA limit, researchers are starting to question if even 1 mg/L is too much considering recognition that food, beverages, and dental products are all sources of fluoride. Despite the fact that fluoridation was once hailed as a major achievement, we are at a significant scientific turning point when the value of fluoridation must be reevaluated.

The difference between calcium fluoride and sodium fluoride must be drawn. Calcium fluoride is a natural element found in nature, whereas sodium fluoride is the toxic, industrial counterpart.

To determine if your city's tap water is fluoridated with sodium fluoride, use this tool at the Center For Disease Control Prevention

This entry was posted in Live Healthy