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Is Flouride in Drinking Water Safe?

Is drinking flouride safe?

Possible benefits and risks of drinking water with fluoride

Historical background

Hailing from the innovative strides of the early 20th century, fluoride made its grand entrance as a dental health game-changer. Fast forward to the mid-1940s, and it's a mainstay in our nation's crusade against cavities, earning accolades as a triumph in public health. Today, this cavity combatant finds its way into the taps of roughly 75% of American homes.

Our water is fortified with various forms of fluoride, from fluorosilicic acid to sodium fluorosilicate, and sodium fluoride, ensuring that every sip comes with a shield against tooth decay. While our natural water bodies like lakes and rivers boast an average fluoride concentration of about 0.2 mg/L, the levels can vary, painting a diverse fluoride landscape across the U.S.

CDC Praise for Flouride in Drinking Water
Flouride Effect on Tooth Decay

This naturally occurring mineral, lauded for its cavity-fighting abilities, has been a subject of continuous scientific scrutiny.

Regulation of flouride in drinking water?

Since 1962, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) has recommended fluoride concentrations in public water supplies to be maintained between 0.7 and 1.2 mg/L to aid in the prevention of dental cavities. In 2015, this recommendation was adjusted to a single target of 0.7 mg/L of fluoride. This update reflects the increased availability of fluoride from various sources, such as toothpaste, requiring a reassessment to avoid excessive intake.

The EPA caps fluoride in public drinking water at 4.0 mg/L. Prolonged exposure above this limit risks skeletal fluorosis, causing joint pain and potential bone weakness or fractures in seniors.

To safeguard our kids from dental fluorosis, the EPA recommends capping fluoride levels at 2.0 mg/L. This helps prevent too much fluoride from disrupting normal tooth enamel formation in young smiles.

Ensuring the purity of our bottled water, the FDA permits up to 2.4 mg/L of fluoride in non-fluoridated varieties, adapted to colder regions. For those with added fluoride, the cap is set at 0.7 mg/L, aligning with PHS guidelines.

According to recent CDC guidelines, the fluoride content in children's toothpaste may be higher than recommended, especially when used in conjunction with fluoridated water. Parents are advised to monitor and manage their children's fluoride intake to prevent possible dental fluorosis, marked by changes in tooth enamel coloration.

Moreover, new research indicates that fluoride's role in preventing tooth decay is significantly more impactful during childhood than in adulthood. Hence, the timing of fluoride consumption is crucial for its effectiveness in dental health.

Possible risks of flouride in drinking water

Elevated fluoride intake has been observed to alter tooth enamel, a condition known as dental fluorosis, and may contribute to bone fragility.

Emerging studies raise concerns about fluoride's potential neurotoxicity, hinting at a link between high fluoride exposure and cognitive challenges.

Flouride Toxicity

Bone Health Alert: Persistent fluoride consumption can result in skeletal fluorosis, marked by bone accumulation of fluoride, leading to joint discomfort and increased risk of bone fractures among seniors.

Glandular Impact: Research indicates fluoride accumulation in the pineal and thyroid glands, possibly disrupting their normal functions.

Tooth Discoloration: High fluoride levels during teeth development in children can lead to dental fluorosis, noticeable through discolored tooth enamel.

Fluoride Toxicity: Elevated fluoride levels, often from water sources or supplements, have been associated with a spectrum of health issues.

Additional Health Implications: Indications of fluoride’s low-dose effects include potential harm to the nervous system, kidneys, and other health aspects:

  • Neurological Concerns: Fluoride exposure may be correlated with neurological alterations, particularly affecting children's cognitive development.
  • Kidney Health: Fluoridation at high levels could adversely impact renal function, as kidneys are pivotal in fluoride excretion.
  • Broader Health Impact: A comprehensive view of fluoride intake reveals possible influences on thyroid health, skeletal integrity, and reproductive health.

Fracture Risk Analysis: Some evidence suggests that fluoride treatments aimed at countering osteoporosis may not decrease, and could potentially increase, the risk of nonvertebral fractures.

Harvard's adjunct professor of environmental health, Philippe Grandjean, acknowledges fluoride's dental benefits but urges caution with its addition to water supplies. He advocates for precise dosing, awareness of its health implications, and attention to sensitive groups, such as infants and dialysis patients, who may require lower fluoride exposure.

Other sources of flouride

Sources of flouride

Conclusion

With the ongoing research surrounding flouride most experts agree to limit the amount of flouride consumed and choose topical solutions like toothpaste to get the benefits of flouride.

References

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine/magazine_article/fluoridated-drinking-water/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6195894/ https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/statistics/cost.htm https://bmcoralhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12903-018-0684-2 https://www.newsweek.com/fluoridation-may-not-prevent-cavities-huge-study-shows-348251 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666911021000216