Opinion: Water Fluoridation Is An Emperor Without Clothes

Putting fluoride – a known neurotoxin – in the water is unconscionable.

Putting a drug – any drug – in drinking water is absurd. Putting fluoride – a known neurotoxin – in the water is unconscionable.

Yet the U.S. government has endorsed water fluoridation since 1950. Many organizations in the medical establishment, led by the American Dental Association, American Medical Association and American Public Health Association, quickly jumped on the bandwagon, before any long-term health studies were done.

They’ve never climbed off, denying the wealth of research demonstrating fluoride’s harmful effects, including recent strong evidence it can lower IQ’s in children. Indeed, in 2006, the National Research Council asserted “It is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain and body. In the following decade, 189 out of 196 peer-reviewed studies – human, animal, and cellular - found fluoride to be neurotoxic.  

My Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines a drug as “a substance used in the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a disease” or “such a substance as recognized or defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

Melinda Plaisier, the FDA associate commissioner for legislation, stated in an official letter to the U.S. House of Representatives “Fluoride, when used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or animal, is a drug that is subject to FDA regulation.”

Fluoride is used to prevent cavities. Consequently, the FDA regulates it, requiring a prescription for fluoride tablets and a label on fluoridated toothpaste that says, for children under 6, “If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.”

But once fluoride is added to public water supplies, the FDA no longer takes responsibility for it as a drug. If you’re looking for logic or consistency, look elsewhere.

Instead, it’s regulated by the EPA as a contaminant, which it certainly is. It’s highly toxic in its own right, and the chemical typically used, fluorosilicic acid (FSA), can be contaminated with lead, arsenic and heavy metals. If FSA isn’t used for fluoridation, it must be disposed of as a hazardous waste. (I’m not making this up.) Again, if you’re looking for logic . . .

When you go to a doctor's office there are standard safety protocols for his/her recommending a drug. It is prescribed for you only, based on your personal medical history. It’s a specific dose and prescribed for a specific period of time. The doctor must tell you its potential harmful side effects. But it’s still up to you - the patient - to decide if you’ll take the drug or not.

When you add fluoride to the water, every one of these protocols is violated. This is both absurd and unethical. It takes away your right of informed consent.

It is one main reason that many European countries have banned fluoridation. And for those that don’t have a nationwide ban, it’s a major reason that the vast majority of their cities and towns either decided they don’t want it or simply consider it a non-issue. Out of 48 European nations, only five have any fluoridated cities. Over 98% of Europeans drink unfluoridated water.

European health officials’ statements make it clear:

  • Netherlands: “The addition of chemicals to drinking water is prohibited by law in the Netherlands. This law came into effect because it was widely perceived that drinking water should not be used as a vehicle for pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, fluoridation of drinking water would conflict with the freedom to choose for natural drinking water.”
  • Belgium: “This water treatment has never been of use . . . The main reason . . . is the fundamental position of the drinking water sector that it is not its task to deliver medicinal treatment to people.”
  • France: “Fluoride chemicals are not included in the list (of ‘chemicals for drinking water treatment).' This is due to ethical as well as medical considerations.”
  • Germany: “The Federal Ministry of Health cites 'the problematic nature of (compulsory) medication' in not fluoridating.”
  • Czech Republic: “(Fluoridation) is not under consideration because this form of supplementation is considered uneconomical, unecological, unethical - forced medication.”

Adding fluoride to water to prevent cavities is as nonsensical as putting statins in water to lower cholesterol, Prozac to treat depression, or even aspirin to relieve headaches. Prescribing drugs isn’t one-size-fits-all. Virtually any can have harmful side effects, especially to vulnerable sub-populations like children, pregnant women and those who are medically fragile.

There is no other drug allowed in U.S. water supplies.

It is sheer absurdity that we’re still allowing this one.

Rick North is the former executive vice president of the Oregon American Cancer Society and former project director for Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility’s Campaign for Safe Food. He can be reached at hrnorth@hevanet.com.


Thank You Rick! Fluoride is an outdated practice with misinformed dentists promoting it who would never force their patients in their office to fluoride treatments if the patient requested to not have them yet they think people like us should be forced to ingest fluoride through our water supply.

Rick North – According to your “logic” –– Putting a poison – any poison – in drinking water is absurd. To illustrate your “reasoning” a similar practice can be described as: Putting chlorine – a known chemical weapon that creates a toxic brew of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) – in water is unconscionable. And, unlike fluoride ions, which strengthen tooth enamel (reducing the risk of decay), there are no beneficial health effects to ingesting DBPs at any level.

The arbitrary labeling of community water fluoridation (CWF) as a drug is one of the many distractions and deceptions employed by fluoridation opponents (FOs). Since CWF, like community water chlorination, is effective, and the benefits far outweigh any risks, most rational individuals would not care whether the substances added were called poisons or medicines or additives or water treatment chemicals.

The FDA actually regulates fluoridated bottled water as a “Food For Human Consumption”, not a drug. Apparently it does not matter to FOs that the levels of residual disinfectants, DBPs, fluoride ions and other potentially harmful chemicals are regulated to be within safe levels. Also, consider the fact that, according to the FDA, “If a supplement contains iodine [which is also a poison at high exposure levels], the Supplement Facts label must list iodine as a nutrient ingredient” – not a medicine.

FOs invent irrelevant distractions (like your “FSA“ and “dose” diversions) to obscure the fact they have no legitimate evidence to support their opinions. The scientific facts on “FSA” are; fluoride ions are identical regardless of source, FSA contaminant levels are carefully regulated (and typically not measurable in treated water) and all water treatment chemicals are toxic and hazardous when concentrated. The facts about “dose” are; no doctor is responsible for monitoring the dose of DBPs or instructing you on their potential harmful side effects based on your personal medical history. The dose of fluoride ions, like the dose of DBPs and other chemicals in public drinking water, is controlled by the amount of water it is possible to drink – ingesting harmful “doses” of fluoride ions or DBPs (or other regulated chemicals) would require drinking toxic amounts of H2O.

These and other extraneous distractions are designed to focus the attention of their target audience – conscientious members of the public – away from the fact that there has been no “wealth of research demonstrating fluoride’s [alleged] harmful effects” in over 70 years that has been sufficient to change the scientific consensus that CWF is a beneficial and safe public health measure (like all water treatment processes) to reduce the risk of tooth decay (and related health issues) in communities.

Rational, caring individuals are concerned with an impartial evaluation of overall benefits vs. risks of public health measures by relevant experts, not on arbitrary definitions and conclusions fabricated by anti-science activists (anti-fluoridation, anti-chlorination, anti-vaccination, anti-evolutionist, anti-climate change, etc.) with specific agendas that are completely contrary to the relevant accepted scientific consensus.

Can you provided a logical explanation of why, if FOs actually have any legitimate scientific evidence to support their claims of obvious and serious harm, the scientific consensus that fluoridation is a safe and effective public health measure has not changed in over 70 years?

By scientific consensus, I mean that the majority of relevant experts in a given scientific field agree on the interpretation of the available body of evidence. This consensus is the reason the public health benefits of CWF are publicly recognized by the U.S. CDC, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and over 100 more of the most highly respected healthcare and healthcare-related organizations in the world.
~> Search on “ada fluoridation facts compendium” and “I like my teeth – what do water fluoridation supporters say?

The fact that the hundreds of thousands of members representing those science and health organizations have not rebelled over the last 70+ years as those organizations continue to publically recognize the benefits of CWF (as new evidence continues to accumulate) is a clear example of a scientific consensus. When legitimate, compelling evidence that supports different interpretations of the evidence is presented, the consensus changes – that is how science and health care have continued to evolve over the last few hundred years.

In contrast, I have recently seen a list of about 13 alternative health, environmental, spiritual and cultural organizations posted by FOs that oppose CWF. That is a clear demonstration of the fact that there are always minority, outlier opinions whose proponents have been unsuccessful at providing credible scientific evidence to change the majority consensus.

What is your perspective on the scientific consensus and the fact that virtually no reputable science or health organization supports the anti-F opinions?

Do you agree with how two FOs recently described organizations that support CWF?
FO1: "CDC references the ADA and AAP, and the ADA and AAP reference each other and the CDC. Circular referencing." and "the credibility of those so called 'scientific' organizations has been seriously tarnished. They do not protect the public. They are lemmings, followers, part of a herd, not scientists.

FO2:Willful blindness and financial benefit affect both organizations [ADA and EPA] and individuals and are eminently rational rationales for refusal to change, although also morally corrupt” and ”vested interests are doing their part to protect a profitable program that causes misery to millions” and ”Agnotology: Culturally induced ignorance or willful blindness, particularly the promotion of misleading scientific data and anecdotes by a biased group” and “I have it on good authority that they [American Thyroid Association] don't want to provoke a political storm with other groups - cowards.”
Fact: The ATA was bullied into modifying its position on CWF by the threat of a lawsuit, “In closing, given the fluoridation lawsuit pending in Peel, Ontario [and] other anticipated American lawsuits yet to be filed, we suggest that the ATA leadership and directors should be prepared to demonstrate their scientific integrity and professional ethics.”

The 2015 Cochrane Fluoride Review, for example, concluded that studies (which met their inclusion criteria) that were performed before the widespread introduction of fluoridated toothpaste, dental fluoride treatments, etc., “…found that water fluoridation is effective at reducing levels of tooth decay among children. The introduction of water fluoridation resulted in children having 35% fewer decayed, missing and filled baby teeth and 26% fewer decayed, missing and filled permanent teeth. We also found that fluoridation led to a 15% increase in children with no decay in their baby teeth and a 14% increase in children with no decay in their permanent teeth.” The review also listed no health concerns from drinking optimally fluoridated water.

The 2006 NRC Fluoride Review committee (which included at least three dedicated FOs) “was asked to evaluate independently the scientific basis of EPA’s MCLG of 4 mg/L and SMCL of 2 mg/L in drinking water and the adequacy of those guidelines to protect children and others from adverse health effects”. The review listed absolutely no harmful health-related finding or recommendation for water containing fluoride ions at the SMCL of 2.0 mg/l – three times the optimal level for CWF.  Provide the exact citation in the 2006 NRC review that concluded CWF had “the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain and body” and required an adjustment of the SMCL.

How do you explain the conclusions of these additional references?
Since 2000, there have been a number of scientific reviews that have concluded that CWF reduces dental decay, and none of these reviews reported any health risks from drinking optimally fluoridated water, only an increased risk of very mild to mild dental fluorosis. They include:
the 2018 Water Fluoridation and Dental Caries in U.S. Children and Adolescents review;
the 2018 Water Fluoridation Health Monitoring Report for England;
the 2018 Food Safety Authority of Ireland Fluoride Report;
the 2017 Swedish report, Effects of Fluoride in the Drinking Water;
the 2016 World Health Organization report: Fluoride and Oral Health;
the 2016 Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council Fluoridation Report;
the 2015 Manual of Dental Practices, Council of European Dentists;
the 2015 U.S. Public Health Service Recommendation for Fluoride Concentration in Drinking Water for the Prevention of Dental Caries;
the 2015 Cochrane Water Fluoridation Review (as referenced above);
the 2014 Royal Society of New Zealand, Health effects of water fluoridation: A review of the scientific evidence;
the 2013 Congressional Research Service, Fluoride in Drinking Water Review;
the 2006 NRC Fluoride Review (as referenced above);
the 2000 York Water Fluoridation Review;
the 2000 Community Preventive Services Task Force, Preventing Dental Caries: Community Water Fluoridation;
and the 2018 National Toxicity Program fluoride study found no evidence of harm.

Unfortunately, the writer’s conflating remarks confuse, rather than clarify, the issue. For instance, chlorine is a water treatment necessary to kill bacteria so we don’t get sick. The use of fluoride is a drug to prevent cavities. It’s not necessary and no one gets sick if we don’t use it. Moreover, its effects are mainly topical, as even the CDC acknowledges. No one needs to swallow it and increase their health risks.

Another is conflating fluoride with nutrients such as iodine (or vitamin D, calcium, etc.). The medical dictionary defines a nutrient as “a constituent of food necessary for normal physiologic function.” Fluoride isn’t necessary and therefore not a nutrient. Numerous federal agencies actually agree on this (http://fluoridealert.org/studies/essential-nutrient/). You won’t see it as part of a multi-vitamin or on the shelf at your local GNC.

The writer is fond of listing organizations that support fluoridation. There’s a much longer list – nations whose health ministries disagree and either ban it or leave the decision to their cities and towns, almost all of which have decided not to fluoridate or simply dismiss it as a non-issue. Out of 196 nations, only 24 fluoridate at all, and only 10 for more than half their populations, like the U.S. Approximately 95% of the world’s population doesn’t drink fluoridated water. The U.S. fluoridates as many people as the rest of the world put together.

Regarding the most-used fluoridation chemical, fluorosilicic acid (FSA), the most obvious health risk is fluoride itself, a neurotoxin the EPA correctly identifies as a contaminant. There are three additional items to note, all of them a matter of public record: 1) FSA must be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility if not used for fluoridation; 2) FSA can contain lead and arsenic; 3) the EPA has determined there are no safe levels of lead and arsenic. Maybe the writer and other fluoridationists can make sense out of this. I can’t.

And the disturbing cherry-picking continues. Take the 2015 Cochrane Review, for example. The writer quotes old studies on cavity reduction rates. Here are some quotes he didn’t include: “The available data came predominantly from studies conducted prior to 1975 . . . over 97% of the 155 studies were at a high risk of bias, which reduces the overall quality of the results . . . We didn’t identify any evidence to determine the effectiveness of water fluoridation for preventing caries in adults . . There is insufficient evidence to determine whether water fluoridation results in a change in disparities in caries levels across socio-economic status.”

He also said “The (Cochrane) review also listed no health concerns from drinking optimally fluoridated water.” What he’s not saying is that the review was limited to studying two issues: effectiveness and dental fluorosis, which at moderate and severe levels can damage teeth. Its conclusion was “There is a significant association between dental fluorosis (of aesthetic concern or all levels of dental fluorosis) and fluoride level.” Indeed, as fluoridation rates have increased in the U.S. fluorosis rates – at all levels - have also increased. This is hardly a coincidence. (Readers can decide for themselves on the legitimacy of the Cochrane Review appearing on his list of organizations supporting fluoridation.)

Perhaps the most serious mischaracterization is listing the 2006 NRC Report as not reporting any health risks from fluoridated water. Take a closer look. The committee wasn’t even charged with identifying health risks of fluoridated water (p. 11). On the other hand, it was charged to “identify data gaps and to make recommendations for future research” (p. 2).

What an eye-opener this report is (https://www.nap.edu/catalog/11571/fluoride-in-drinking-water-a-scientifi...). The balanced, blue-ribbon committee of 12 scientists, which included several fluoridation supporters, stated that existing science was lacking and more research was needed for fluoride’s connection to, among others, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and brain damage, including lower IQ’s. Statements included “It is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain and the body” (p. 222), “Fluoride is therefore an endocrine disruptor” (p. 266), “The chief endocrine effects of fluoride include decreased thyroid function” (p. 8) and “The effects of low doses of fluoride on kidney functions in humans needs to be carefully documented’ (p. 303).

Please understand the significance of this. While the U.S. government and numerous medical associations jumping on the bandwagon were insisting fluoridation was safe since the early 1950’s – before any long-term health studies had been done (and none at all on neurotoxicity) – the most comprehensive, authoritative review of the science 50 years later determined that we didn’t fully understand fluoride’s effects on numerous harmful health conditions. (Readers can also decide for themselves if the NRC review belongs on his list of organizations supporting fluoridation.)

The scientific assertion that more research is needed and the writer’s assertion that fluoridation is proven safe for everyone flatly contradict each other.

NRC committee member Robert Isaacson, PhD, now deceased, summed it up best (including my own assessment of fluoridation, which changed to opposition after I reviewed the NRC report): “I had no fixed opinion on whether or not fluoride should be added to drinking water . . . The more I learned the more I became convinced that the addition of fluorides to drinking water was, and is, a mistake.”