Fluoride in Tap Water – and Why It’s Bad For You
So, now you know all the risks of bottled water, you’re probably ready to pledge your life to tap water, right? Well, wait a second – there are potential health risks there, too. These come with the addition of fluoride…
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral found in many foods, animals, and in the soil (and some water, too). It is found in tea leaves and vegetables including curly kale, although artificial fluoride is found in toothpastes and mouth washes, as well as certain water supplies.
In fact, it’s the only chemical added to water for “medicinal” reasons.
Why, you may ask?
Well, way back in the 1940s, water fluoridation was slowly introduced across the globe as a way to prevent tooth decay and cavities in children. It’s thought that it strengthens the enamel, or the outer shell of the tooth.
Many original studies suggested that it could reduce tooth decay by around 50%, with a recent report revealing that it could prevent fillings. Further research still28 suggests that children’s teeth in areas which drink water containing fluoride (such as Birmingham) were three times healthier than those where they don’t.
Now, around 10% of the UK’s water supplies contains added fluoride (this compared to a massive 64% in the US). It’s thought that around half a million people in the UK receive water that is naturally fluoridated with calcium fluoride, a further 6 million receive fluoridated water.
However, the vast majority of countries in Europe – a staggering 97% of the Western European population29, including France, Germany, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Scotland, Iceland, and Italy – have rejected water fluoridation.
Why? Well, there are plenty of concerns surrounding the addition of fluoride in water, many of which we’ll list now:
Many feel that adding fluoride to water equates to treating you without your consent. In adding it to water, a lot of consumers and health experts feel that the public is left with no choice over whether or not it consumes this ‘medicine’. Put this way – would a GP be able to treat you with drugs without your consent?
Similarly, by adding fluoride to drinking water, the dosage cannot be controlled. Our needs as individuals are never the same. Why should we have fluoride added to water under the “one size fits all” logic?
Dr Arvid Carlsson, the 2000 Nobel Laureate in Medicine and Physiology, battled to keep fluoride out of water supplies in Sweden. He said: “Water fluoridation goes against leading principles of pharmacotherapy, which is progressing from a stereotyped medication — of the type 1 tablet 3 times a day — to a much more individualized therapy as regards both dosage and selection of drugs. The addition of drugs to the drinking water means exactly the opposite of an individualized therapy”
Fluoride Is Already In Toothpaste
Since fluoride came to be added to toothpaste in the 70s, why is there still the need to add it to water?
Today, people are exposed to fluoride in many different ways which weren’t around when it was first introduced in water. Indeed, much recent research30 suggests that it works best when applied topically.
Added Fluoride Has Been Linked to Cancer
Fluoride has been linked to all kinds of diseases, including increased risks of osteoporosis, kidney problems, and even cancer. In the 1990s, a study of lab animals31 by the US National Toxicology Program found “equivocal” evidence of cancer-causing potential of fluoridated drinking water in male rats, based on a higher than expected number of cases of osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer).
Similarly, a 2006 report of a study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that exposure to higher levels of fluoride in drinking water was linked to a higher risk of osteosarcoma in boys but not in girls.
Dr. Takeki Tsutsui from the Nippon Dental College in Japan showed that fluoride caused genetic damage and was also capable of transforming normal cells into cancer cells.
Although the International Agency for Research on Cancer stated that studies “have shown no consistent tendency for people living in areas with high concentrations of fluoride in the water to have higher cancer rates than those living in areas with low concentrations.” It is impossible to rule out just how dangerous fluoride can be.
Why put the body at risk when the dangers of fluoride are still so uncertain?
Links between consumption of fluoride and dental fluorosis32 (which affects the appearance of the tooth’s enamel) have been confirmed, especially if a child’s teeth are exposed to too much fluoride when they’re developing.
However, the severity of the fluorosis depends on how much fluoride has been ingested and for how long. For this reason, parents are told to be vigilant about the amount of fluoride their child consumes.
Alzheimers is the most common form of Dementia, affecting around 800,000 people in the UK alone. Yet, terrifyingly this disease has been linked to our drinking of fluoride.
You see, many water suppliers combine aluminium and fluoride to treat the water they give us. When these two chemicals combine with each other in the blood, they can form aluminum fluoride, which can be absorbed by the body and has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.
In 1998, the Journal of Brain Research published a study33 which looked into aluminum and the effects it has on the nervous system. The report revealed that fluorine levels have a similar impact on brain tissue to the changes found in humans with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Indeed, the authors concluded that: “Chronic administration of aluminum-fluoride and sodium-fluoride in the drinking water of rats resulted in distinct morphological alterations of the brain, including the effects on neurons and cerebrovasculature.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Robert Isaacson at the State University of New York, added aluminum fluoride to rats’ diet. This was found to give the rats short-term memory loss, smell sensory loss, unsteady gait, and loss of structures of the neo-cortex and hippocampus – all symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Can It Age Us?
Part of the reason we down glass after glass of water is to look good and to get glowing, healthy skin, right? From a young age, we’re told that one of the best kept beauty secrets around is to drink our eight glasses a day.
Yet, what if we told you that fluoride in water has been linked to decreased collagen levels, all of which can affect wrinkles, ligaments, muscles and cartilage?
In his book, Fluoride: The Aging Factor, Dr. John Yiamouyiannis describes fluoride’s negative effects on the immune system. He concludes that: “Before any disease is even noticeable, the acceleration of the ageing process by fluoride is already occurring at the biochemical level, by means of enzyme inhibition, collagen breakdown, genetic damage and/or disruption of the immune system.”
Indeed, Dr A.K. Susheela, from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences34, seemed to back this up when he found that fluoride can disrupt the synthesis of collagen, causing the the breakdown of collagen in bone, tendon, muscle, skin, cartilage, lung, kidney, and trachea.
Can It Cause Brain Damage?
This year, a study by Harvard University35even claimed that added fluoride may be responsible for reducing childrens’ IQ and increasing levels of brain damage.
In the study, researchers said: “A recent report from the U.S. National Research Council (NRC 2006) concluded that adverse effects of high fluoride concentrations in drinking water may be of concern and that additional research is warranted.
“Findings…suggest an inverse association between high fluoride exposure and children’s intelligence …The results suggest that fluoride may be a developmental neurotoxicant that affects brain development at exposures much below those that can cause toxicity in adults.”
Of course, government bods have carried out many reviews and studies, many of which suggest that there’s no adverse effect to injecting water with fluoride36. The Medical Research Council (MRC) – carried out in the UK in 2004stated that there is very little cause for concern on any potential general health issue in relation to water fluoridation.
Water: It’s Amazing, Isn’t It?
So, all that, and we only touched the surface on all there is to know about water. It’s pretty incredible stuff, right?
As Leonardo Da Vinci said, water truly is “the vehicle of nature” – it is to the world what blood is to our bodies.
We hope that this document has helped to educate you and will help you to make more informed decisions about what you’re drinking and where. And if you have to take one thing from this article (OK, so maybe two), then please make it this – recycle, and never, ever take the water you’re drinking for granted again.
About Lucy Bee Limited
Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
Members of the Lucy Bee team are not medically trained and can only offer their best advice. Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Please note you should always refer your health queries to a qualified medical practitioner.