This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Local health officials continue to promote fluoridation even though in 2011 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended a nation-wide reduction in fluoride levels. This was after it learned that 41 percent of American adolescents, ages 12-15, have dental fluorosis, a clear sign of overexposure to fluoride, and that the rate is continuing to increase steadily.
For over 50 years, the U.S. government has mandated that fluoride be added to the water supply to prevent dental problems. However, current research has shown that fluoride, a chemical that is used in rat poison, does a lot more harm than good. The fluoride found in tap water has actually been shown to damage tooth enamel, increase fracture risk, suppress immune and thyroid function, increase cancer risk and disrupt the function of the pineal gland. But there are ways you can avoid fluoride in your drinking water — and here are six reasons you should:
#1: Fluoride accumulates in your body.
A typical healthy adult kidney can remove about half of the fluoride ingested each day from all sources. Any remaining fluoride can accumulate in the bones and the pineal gland. Infants and children excrete even less fluoride from their kidneys and absorb up to 80% of ingested fluoride into their bones. Importantly, the concentration of fluoride in bones increases over a lifetime.
#2: Fluoride destroys the male and female reproductive system.
Fluoride damages sperm and increases the rate of infertility in a number of species. Two studies (here and here) found a reduced level of circulating testosterone in men living in high fluoride areas. Fluoride accumulates in the pineal gland over time and it reduces melatonin production and leads to an earlier onset of puberty. One of the earliest fluoridation trials in the U.S. reported that on average, girls in the fluoridated community reached menstruation five months earlier than those in the non-fluoridated community.
#3: Formula-fed babies receive the highest doses of fluoride.
Infants are the most vulnerable to fluoride toxicity, and bottle-fed babies have the highest exposure to fluoride. Given the large number of formula-fed infants in the U.S., prolonged exposure to high intakes of fluoride during infancy is much more common now than in the past.
Due to their small size and inability to excrete more than a small amount of fluoride through their kidneys, infants are exposed to up to 400% more fluoride (per pound of body weight) than adults. This may help explain why bottle-fed babies suffer higher rates of dental fluorosis, a discoloration of the teeth caused by excessive fluoride ingestion during childhood. In addition, studies suggest that infant fluoride exposure can lead to lowered IQ and thyroid dysfunction.
#4: Fluoride hardens arteries.
Studies show that fluoride uptake in coronary arteries is significantly correlated with an individual’s history of cardiovascular events, and the uptake of ingested fluoride in people diagnosed with cardiovascular disease is much higher than in folks without cardiovascular events. Thus, a higher fluoride uptake in coronary arteries due to great fluoride ingestion leads to increased cardiovascular risk.
Ingesting too much fluoride can turn your arteries and heart to stone in a process called vascular calcification. Kids or adults who ingest fluoride from water and dental care products who also drink cola beverages (both diet and regular) are at increased risk of vascular calcification due to the high phosphate content of most sodas.
#5: Fluoride causes loss of IQ and neurological problems.
According to the National Research Council, “It is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain.” In addition, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists fluoride among about 100 chemicals for which there is “substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.” Preclinical research suggests that fluoride accumulates in the brain and affects mental behavior. It therefore should come as no surprise that published studies show an association between fluoride exposure and reduced intelligence.
One research team in China observed a reduction in children’s intelligence in children living in areas with a high fluoride level in their water supply. They found that IQ was inversely correlated with urinary fluoride concentrations, and they discovered that the fluoride level in children’s urine could accurately predict which children would perform poorly on IQ tests. According to the National Research Council, “the consistency of the results [in fluoride/IQ studies] appears significant enough to warrant additional research on the effects of fluoride on intelligence.”
#6: Fluoride negatively impacts thyroid function.
According to a 2006 report by the National Research Council of the National Academies, fluoride interferes with the normal functioning of the adrenals, pancreas, parathyroid, pineal, pituitary and thyroid glands. The NRC report further discussed research that links fluoride to disruption of parathyroid activity, impairment of glucose tolerance and the timing of sexual maturity.
The EPA estimates that the average American adult ingests about 3 mg fluoride each day, with some individuals consuming 6 mg per day or more. Published studies show that fluoride intakes as low as 0.05-0.1 mg fluoride per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/day) can disrupt thyroid function. If the person has an iodine deficiency, a fluoride intake of just 0.03 mg/kg/day can disrupt thyroid function.
The EPA report indicates that for a child weighing 30 lbs, fluoride intakes greater than 0.7 mg per day (or 0.14 mg per day with iodine deficiency) can put the child at risk for thyroid dysfunction. The EPA estimates that children aged 1-3 years old typically ingest over 1.5 mg fluoride from all sources each day, which is more than twice the amount necessary to induce altered thyroid function, even with an adequate iodine intake. Severe damage to the human body can result when both fluoride and iodine intakes are excessive.