Fluoridation: A Moral Grey Zone?

     With Americans watching 34 hours a week of television on average [Neilson] and pharmaceutical companies spending 4.3 billion a year on advertising [Bulik], it is seemingly impossible to escape the constant bombardment of ads encouraging you and your family to take one over-the-counter drug or another. However, the long list of side effects after the brief positive remark on the subject causes one to think twice about actually consuming this new medical marvel. But, the beauty of advertisements is that they give you a choice. They inform you of not only the pros, but the cons as well.

     When a drug is slipped into a country’s water supply, it leaves little choice for future generations whether or not they wish to consume it. When fluoride was first “enhanced” and added into America’s water supply, the sole purpose was to cure dental decay. However, the health risks associated with ingesting fluoridated water far outweigh the need to prevent tooth decay.

     Fluoride, a naturally occurring compound, is virtually harmless. What makes our water “fluoridated” is not as simple as just adding in additional organic fluoride compounds. Fluoridation actually occurs when hydrofluorosilic acid or sodium fluorosilicates are introduced into water molecules. These compounds are “unprocessed industrial by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry”.

      Even though the “… FDA has approved no fluoride-containing supplements as prescription or over-the-counter drugs.” [Stockin] this substance has been altered and introduced into the United State’s water supply since early in the 19th century regardless of hidden health risks.

     Citizens residing in fluoridated regions are at a higher risk of consuming toxic levels of fluoride, originating not only from tap water, but also from a variety of sources. For “Fluoride is found in vegetables, fruit, tea and other crops; although drinking water is usually the largest contributor to the daily fluoride intake. It is also found in the atmosphere, originating from the dusts of fluoride-containing soils, from gaseous industrial wastes, from the burning of coal fires in populated areas and from gases of volcanic activity. Thus fluoride, in varying concentrations, is freely available in nature.” [WHO]

     According to recent studies, ingesting fluoride at high levels can cause an array of health issues such as thyroid disease, lowered IQ, and Skeletal Fluorosis. However, when the United States Government first decided to fluoridate their country’s water supply, I’d like to believe that they were unaware of these health risks. To understand the ‘why’ of fluoridation, we must first look to the man who put it all in motion.

     The young, recently graduated dentist Frederick McKay first researched fluoride in 1901.  It all began in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  McKay was from the East coast, and moved to Colorado to officiate his own dental practice.  He discovered upon arrival that the natives had ‘grotesque’ brown stains on their teeth.  McKay had never heard of this dental disorder throughout his studies, and could find no reference in any dental literature, so he became determined to get to the bottom of whatever was destroying the Colorado Springs Native’s teeth.

     “Local residents blamed the problem on any number of strange factors, such as eating too much pork, consuming inferior milk, and drinking calcium-rich water.” But, McKay knew that this phenomenon, which was dubbed the “Colorado Brown Stain” by local dentists, was not something that he could solve on his own.

     In 1909, Dr. G. V. Black, a renowned dental practitioner and researcher, agreed to visit and collaborate with McKay.  Black was intrigued by the incorrigible notion that this “Colorado Brown Stain” was nowhere to be found in previous findings of dental research history.  He was shocked by the how prevalent this “deformity”, as he called it, was.  Black studied this ‘dental fluorosis’ for 6 years alongside McKay before his death in 1915.

     “First, they showed that mottled enamel (as Black referred to the condition) resulted from developmental imperfections in children’s teeth. This finding meant that city residents whose permanent teeth had calcified without developing the stains did not risk further mottled teeth enamel; young children waiting for their secondary set of teeth to erupt, however, were at high risk. Secondly, they found that teeth afflicted by Colorado Brown Stain were surprisingly and inexplicably resistant to decay*.

     The two researchers were still a long way from determining the cause of Colorado Brown Stain, but McKay had a theory tucked away in the back of his mind. Maybe there was, as some local residents suggested, an ingredient in the water supply that mottled the teeth?

     In 1923, the water-causation theory became well known through the dental practice.  McKay was on the brink of discovery of the root of the rotting, but had only come as far (at this point) as deducing that the issue was related to the water source in Colorado Springs.  With the help of Dr. Grover Kempf of the United States Public Health Service, McKay found the answer.

     “McKay and Kempf published a report on their findings that reached the desk of ALCOA’s chief chemist, H. V. Churchill, at company headquarters in Pennsylvania. Churchill, who had spent the past few years refuting claims that aluminum cookware was poisonous, worried that this report might provide fresh fodder for ALCOA’s detractors. Thus, he decided to conduct his own test of the water in Bauxite, but this time using photospectrographic analysis, a more sophisticated technology than that used by McKay. Churchill asked his assistant to assay the Bauxite water sample. After several days, the assistant reported a surprising piece of news: the town’s water had high levels of fluoride. Churchill was incredulous. “Whoever heard of fluorides in water,” he bellowed at his assistant. “You have contaminated the sample. Rush another specimen.” [NIDCR]

     McKay, upon Churchill’s request, began to collect samples from water sources located near areas where residents were experiencing dental trouble.  He finally had the answer, high levels of water-borne fluoride indeed caused the discoloration of tooth enamel. But, by 1951, fluoridation became an official policy of the U.S. Public Health Service. [Mendoza]

** FUN FACT: In 1956, Crest came out with the first fluoridated toothpaste.  **

     Fluoridation became an official policy instead of an official toxin because shortly after McKay’s discovery, it was deduced by Dr. H. Trendley Dean, head of the Dental Hygiene Unit at the National Institute of Health (NIH), and Dr. Elias Elvove, a senior chemist at the NIH that fluoride levels of up to 1.0 ppm (parts per million) in drinking water did not cause enamel fluorosis in most people.

     Dean recalled “reading McKay’s and Black’s studies on fluorosis that; mottled tooth enamel was ‘unusually resistant to decay’. Dean wondered whether adding fluoride to drinking water at “cosmetically safe levels” would help fight tooth decay. [NIDCR]

     In 1945, a 15-year project began.  The first comprehensive study on fluoridated water’s effect on roughly 30,000 school children’s teeth ensued in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  After 11 years, it was deduced that the caries rate among the children born after the fluoridation dropped more than 60 percent.  This was a giant leap in dental discovery,

     Water fluoridation in the U.S. began to spread across the country, starting with the original experimental town; Grand Rapids, Michigan. Today, more than 195 million Americans live in fluoridated water regions.

     The United States is currently fluoridating 64% of all industrialized water* in the ‘fight against dental degradation and decay’. Making the USA one of the 11 countries that fluoridates over 50% of population’s drinking water.

Figure No. 1: [BFS]


(Red= High Concentration of Fluoride) Concentration by country and percentage: Australia (80%), Brunei (95%); Chile (70%),Guyana (62%), Hong Kong (100%), the Irish Republic (73%), Israel(70%), Malaysia (75%), New Zealand (62%), Singapore (100%), and the United States (64%). [British Fluoridation Society]

     If 11 countries fluoridate their water while others do not, according to the research done by government organizations, tooth decay should be noticeably less prevalent in the fluoridated countries. However, as deduced by a study done on 12 year olds in fluoridated countries in contrast to non-fluoridated counties [Figure No. 2], there is no dramatic difference in the decline of tooth decay between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities.

Figure No. 2 [WHO]


     Even though the large-scale fluoridation of our water supply was named one of the Ten Great Public Health Interventions of the 20th Century “given the dramatic decline in tooth decay during the past 60 years [CDC], long-term health risks of consuming fluoride were not yet accounted for.

     Considering that 99% of all fluoridated water, after use, finds it’s way back into the environment, researchers have realized that fluoride levels not only affect humans, food and animals, it also affects the fabric of our fragile environmental system. In Dr. Damkaer & Dr. Dey’s writings about salmon passage and other findings: tinkering with water’s fluoridation has serious side effect to the general health of living creatures [Damkaer].

     The first serious side effect of consuming un-natural amounts of the industrial by-product fluoride in water according to a study done by the New Zealand Cancer Society is Skeletal Fluorosis. Skeletal Fluorosis occurs when there is a fluoride build-up in bones. This leads to joint pain and stiffness, and in some cases, it can affect muscle function and alter the very structure of the bone. [Ministry of Health]

     In addition, according to a study done by researchers at Harvard University, children in fluoridated areas had a much lower IQ rating then children living in non-fluoridated areas. “The results support the possibility of an adverse effect of high fluoride exposure on children’s neurodevelopment.” [Harvard] In addition, 15% of children in fluoridated communities showed signs of mental retardation compared to 6% in non-fluoridated cities. Furthermore, there have been over 23 human studies and 100 animal studies linking fluoride to brain damage. “The consistency of the results appears significant enough to warrant additional research on the effects of fluoride on intelligence.’’ [committee on Fluoride] Moreover, according the National Library of Medicine Institutes, prolonged ingestion of fluoride may cause serious damage to the nervous system, and the Institute warns that people must be ‘’aware of this serious problem and avoid the use of toothpaste and items that contain fluoride.’’ [Valdez]

     Furthermore, Endocrine levels are also effected by fluoridation. Effects in experimental animals and in humans conclude that decreased thyroid function, increaced calcitonin activity, secondary hyperparathyroidism, increased parathyroid hormone activity, possible effects on timing of sexual maturity and impaired glucose tolerance are related to increased levels of fluoridated water intake.

     Even though Fluoride is being implemented in order to sustain and improve the dental health, 41% or children still suffer from dental fluorosis. [CDC] This occurs when children 8 years or younger consume toxic levels of fluoride at a young age when their permenent teeth are developing under their gums. The Center for Disease Control advises that ‘’ children should have an alternative source of drinking water that contains Fluoride at the recommended level.’’ We must then wonder if Fluoride is making enough of a positive impact on dental health in order to asses whether or not the health risks associated with consumption of fluoridate water is worth the continuation of fluoridation.

     In conclusion, we as humans have the right to know and choose what we consume, but do we have the power to moderate our own fluoride intake? The answer is yes. Because there is power in numbers. If you or someone you know is suffering from one of the few health side-effects of toxic fluoride consumption, I encourage you to further research the many other effects fluoride wrecks on our systems. There are many side effects that were not discussed above and others that have yet to be properly researched. For example, links between osteosarcoma and fluoride consumption, carcinogenic effects and finally, scientists still must research the reproductive and genotoxicity of fluoride.

     Is this government issued prescription’s sole benefit is worth the risks that are involved?  Stay tuned in, because knowledge is power.

By Rebekah A. Dobbs


1) Ad Age Insights, and Bulik, Beth Snyder. Pharmaceutical Marketing. Kantar Media. Farifeild, CT. 2011. Web.

2) British Fluoridation Society. One in a Million: The facts about water fluoridation. London, England. 2001. Web.

3) [CDC] Center for Disease Control. Community Water Fluoridation. Atlanta, GA. 2013. Web.

4) Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water, and the National Research Council. Fluoride in Drinking Water. Washington, DC. National Academies Press. 2006. Print

5) Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water, Board on Environmental Studies, and Toxicology Division on Earth and Life Studies. FLUORIDE IN DRINKING WATER: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards. Washington, DC. National Academies Press. 2006. Print.

6) Damkaer, David, and Douglas, Dey. Evidence for Fluoride Effects on Salmon Passage at John Day Dam, Columbia River, 1982—1986. Washington, DC. 1989.

7) Hinckley, David. Americans Spend 34 Hours a Week Watching TV. New York Daily News. 2012. Web

8) Harvard School of Public Health. Impact of Fluoride on Neurological Developement in Children. Boston, MA. 2012. Web.

9) Mendoza, Amanda. Information Memorandum NO. 11-039 Ordinance NO. 11-007. Palmer, AK. 2012. Print.

10) Ministry of Health. 2010. Our Oral Health: Key findings of the 2009 New Zealand Oral Health Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

11) [NCHS] National Center for Health Statistics. Special Feature on Prescription Drugs. Hyattsville, MD. 2014.

12) [NIDCR] National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. National Institutes of Health. Bethesda, MD. Febuary 25th, 2014. Web.

13) Neilson Company. Neilson Census. New York, USA. 2011. Web.

14) Stockin, Daniel, and Fessenden, Lillie. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration. Response on Fluoridation by the FDA. Brentwood, TN. 2005. Print.

15) Valdez-Jiménez, Soria Fregozo, Miranda Beltrán, Gutiérrez Coronado, and Pérez Vega of the [NCIB] National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Effects of the Fluoride on the Central Nervous System. Bethesda MD. 2011. Web.

16) [WHO] World Heath Organization. J. Fawell, K. Bailey, J. Chilton, E. Dahi, L. Fewtrell and Y. Magara. Fluoride in Drinking-water. Seattle, WA. 2001.


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