How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fluoride
“Have you ever seen a commie with a glass of water?”
In the 1964 Stanley Kubrick film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, it’s a question that leads to a conspiratorial rant about the dangers of water fluoridation; one you might be likely to hear today in fact.
It is 50 years after the making of the movie and water fluoridation still seems to be a hot button topic that draws nuts from just about all walks of life. Unfortunately, as with most pseudoscience, the controversy is manufactured and as a consequence, misinformation is spread.
So the medical and dental establishments by and large play the part of the beleaguered professor, begging people to educate themselves about the benefits fluoridation provides. That never stops various groups from claiming that even if fluoride does have useful properties, the dangers of fluoridation [or over-fluoridation] are far too risky to outweigh the benefits.
Despite what pseudoscience has said, a new study aims to end [not once and for all unfortunately] the perpetual rumor that fluoride causes lower IQ scores by damaging a developing brain. The researchers, from the University of Otago published their findings in the highly respected American Journal of Public Health.
The study followed nearly all aspects of the health and development of around 1000 people born in Dunedin in 1972-1973 up to age 38. The lead author, Dr Jonathan Broadbent says the new research focused on study members’ fluoride exposure during the first five years of their lives, [because that is a critical period in brain development] after which IQ is known to be relatively stable.
The team compared IQs of study members who grew up in the Dunedin suburbs with and without fluoridated water. A good thing to note– the use of fluoride toothpaste and tablets was also taken into account.
They examined average IQ scores between the ages of 7-13 years and again at age 38. But it didn’t stop there, they also looked at subtest scores for verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed.
They even went so far as to control for childhood factors associated with IQ variation, such as socio-economic status of parents, birth weight and breastfeeding, and secondary and tertiary educational achievements. All of which is associated with an adult’s IQ.
“Our analysis showed no significant differences in IQ by fluoride exposure, even before controlling for the other factors that might influence scores. In line with other studies, we found breastfeeding was associated with higher child IQ, and this was regardless of whether children grew up in fluoridated or non-fluoridated areas.”
This study probably won’t stop people from talking about the big bad fluoridation monster, but one can hope.
As for the other fluoridation issues?
Well this study already shows that there is no harm done to the environment from fluoridating drinking water. The CDC listed fluoridation of public drinking water as one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the century. They also have done plenty of research on the matter [of course].
The ADA [American Dental Association] offers a 72 [yes, I did just say 72] page paper about fluoridation facts. They recommend an adequate intake for adults [defined as over 18] as 3 mg/day for females and 4 mg/day for males. The max tolerable levels are set at 10 mg/day for anyone over the age of 9 years old.
To put that into perspective, in order to hit the max tolerable level at the maximum allowed fluoridation levels in water [since it is a range] you would need to drink roughly 1.3 gallons of water a day, just to hit the max tolerable level. So in order to have any reason for health issues you would need to drink over 1.3 gallons of water a day for years, years! All while assuming that you are drinking the maximum allowed fluoride content in water.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll raise my glass to that news.
Pollick H.F. (2004). Water Fluoridation and the Environment: Current Perspective in the United States, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 10 (3) 343-350. DOI: 10.1179/oeh.2004.10.3.343
Broadbent J.M., Thomson W.M., Ramrakha S., Moffitt T.E., Zeng J., Foster Page L.A. & Poulton R. (2014). Community Water Fluoridation and Intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand, American Journal of Public Health, e1-e5. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301857
Horowitz, H. (2003). The 2001 CDC Recommendations for Using Fluoride to Prevent and Control Dental Caries in the United States Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 63 (1), 3-8 DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-7325.2003.tb03467.x