Two months ago in Nutrition & Healing, you read about the effects fluoride has on the brain, particularly its devastating effect on IQ in children. You also learned that a number of prestigious institutions – including the Harvard School of Public Health, UNICEF (the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Union of Scientists – have also issued their own warnings about fluoride induced brain damage.
Unfortunately, fluoride isn’t eliminated easily from the body. It settles the most into bones and teeth, and being from the same family as chloride and iodide, it also interferes with the action of these elements. For example, fluoride interferes with iodide in the thyroid gland. At higher levels, the chemical causes an unsightly mottling of the teeth, known as dental fluorosis. And those are only a few of the many alarming ways that fluoride affects the body.1
Industry waste is being dumped into your ‘drinking’ water
We’re exposed to two types of fluoride. The natural form, which has been around as long as humans (probably longer), is called calcium fluoride. Calcium fluoride is relatively insoluble and not absorbed into our bodies in appreciable amounts. But this naturally-occurring form isn’t what’s being dumped into our drinking water with the stated goal of reducing cavities.
In a 1992 census, the majority of ‘fluoridated’ communities reported using fluorosilicic acid – a form of fluoride derived from industry and not nature – as their fluoridation source for drinking water.2 Fluorosilicic acid is drastically more toxic than naturally-occurring calcium fluoride, a fact studied and proven decades ago.3,4 The ‘silicofluorides’ (referring to a complex that includes the compounds hydrofluorosilicic acid and sodium silicofluoride)5 are waste products of industry, most notably phosphate fertilizers,6 but are also derived from other industrial processes, including the manufacture of steel and the production of coal and oil. Industry sells many tons of these silicofluoride waste products to communities to use in water fluoridation annually.7
Many suspect that disposing of these industrial wastes, and making a profit while doing it, is the real reason for the forced fluoridation of water supplies in many areas. [Around 5.8 million people in different parts of England are supplied with artificially fluoridated water.] But that’s a topic for another time; if you wish to learn more about it now, read The Fluoride Deception by Christopher Bryson (2004) and do an online search.
Studies link fluoride to a long list of health problems
Studies have shown that fluoride in this form can contribute to thyroid problems, affect the immune system, cause bone degradation and osteoporosis, and contribute to premature ageing. It can also have an impact on the heart, liver, kidneys, brain, pancreas, skin and arteries. Some report it has an adverse effect on reproductive health and a possible association with birth defects. It’s even been found to accumulate in livestock, affecting their dental and skeletal health as well.8
In 2006, the National Research Council in the US published a comprehensive report summarizing the many findings on fluoride and its dangers. In addition to the effects on the brain previously discussed, they outlined key findings about fluoride’s effects on the pineal gland, endocrine system, fracture risk, thyroid function, reproductive health, and the immune system.9
In July’s Nutrition & Healing, you learned about Dr. Phyllis Mullenix’s animal research with fluoride, and what happened to her career when she published her findings on the neurotoxic effects of the chemical, so it won’t all be repeated here. But considering the virtual epidemic of hyperactivity we’ve seen in children in the last half of the 20th century and into the 21st, one part is worth repeating. Dr. Mullenix’s research revealed that animals exposed to fluoride before birth developed hyperactivity that was present all of their lives, and the young and adult animals showed depressed activity.10
In a 1999 letter to the US Army Medical Command, which had requested more information related to her fluoride studies, Dr. Mullenix wrote: “… Overall, we concluded that the study flagged potential for motor dysfunction, IQ deficits and/or learning disabilities in humans.”11
In 1998, another researcher looked into the underlying causes of the neurotoxicity observed by Mullenix. This animal study found that certain natural substances normally found in brain-cell membranes – and important to proper brain-cell function – were significantly decreased following exposure to fluoride. The unexposed control group had no decrease in these important natural substances.12
Fluoride acts as an endocrine disrupter
Studies show that fluoride is a hormone disrupting agent with the potential to alter reproduction, sexual maturity, thyroid function, and other aspects of endocrine function.
Effects on the pineal gland
Among other things, the pineal gland plays an essential role in regulating our biological clocks by producing melatonin, a hormone necessary for sleep. The internal clock of the pineal gland also helps initiate the hormonal changes that occur in puberty. Studies show that high amounts of fluoride accumulate in the pineal gland.
In the 1990s, English scientist Jennifer Luke Ph.D. and her research team examined the pineal glands of human cadavers, with an average age of death of 82, and found evidence of fluoride build-up in those glands.13 The pineal gland is only weakly protected by the blood-brain barrier and is vulnerable to accumulation of fluoride. It can actually absorb more fluoride than teeth and bones. Dr. Luke reported levels ranging from 9000 to 21,000 parts per million.14
Two things occur when fluoride accumulates in the gland; first, it stops melatonin production and second, it causes earlier sexual maturity, a disturbing development noted in animal and human studies. Other researchers have found evidence in animal studies of lowered levels of melatonin and an earlier age of sexual maturation in those animals.15 In another study reported in 1956, many years before Dr. Luke’s studies, it was reported that girls living in fluoridated communities had earlier onset of their menstrual cycles than girls living in communities without fluoridated water.16
Effects on the thyroid
Since the 1930s it’s been known that bathing in water containing small amounts of fluoride could interfere with thyroid function. In larger amounts – 5mg to 10mg daily – fluoride has actually been used as a treatment for overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). In a 1958 study, researchers reported that ingesting this amount of fluoride could improve symptoms of hyperthyroidism.17 Until the 1970s, it wasn’t uncommon for European doctors to treat overactive thyroid with between 2mg and 10mg of fluoride taken orally each day.
Unfortunately, many communities in the US have been exposed to fluoridated water containing levels 1.6mg to 6.6mg per day, well within the levels used to treat an overactive thyroid. Fluoride’s dampening effect on an overactive thyroid suggests that in a healthy person it could increase the risk of developing an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) even in individuals with normal thyroid function, particularly when iodine intake is insufficient.
In an animal study, fluoride’s adverse effect on thyroid function was inversely related to the amount of iodine ingested.18 (In English: less iodine, worse adverse fluoride effect, the more iodine, less adverse fluoride effect.) Low levels of iodine – as little as 0.06mg of fluoride per kilogram per day or 1.2mg per day in a 44 pound child – had a very noticeable effect on thyroid function. Researchers described what they observed as a “competitive antagonistic action between fluorine and iodine in the thyroid gland.”
Iodine (mostly in its iodide form) is essential for normal thyroid function. If you have studied chemistry you know that fluorine/fluoride, chlorine/ chloride, iodine/iodide, and bromine/bromide are all members of the same family of elements, and all participate in very similar chemical reactions. So it just makes sense that our thyroid glands accumulate all of these minerals. Research confirms what common sense already told us, thyroid glands accumulate all these elements.19 In 1955, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that, in San Francisco, there was a 400% increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer since water fluoridation was introduced.20
Effects on the pancreas
Human and animal studies show that ingesting high levels of fluoride can impair blood-sugar regulation or increase blood-sugar levels.21 Fluoride may cause this effect by disrupting the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas.22 One study with animals demonstrated that blood sugar increased after just one large dose of fluoride.23
Effects on bone and bone-cancer risk
Fluoride disrupts processes associated with bone formation and repair by affecting the cells which build bone (osteoblasts) and the cells which break down bone (osteoclasts). While fluoride can increase bone density as seen on bone scans, it actually decreases bone strength causing bone to crystallize abnormally. Only a few decades ago, some of the women I worked with were advised by doctors following the ‘standard of care’ of the time to take extra fluoride (no kidding!), ‘because it improves bone density.’ A few of them took that ill-advised advice, and ended up with bone fractures which took much longer than usual to heal.
Skeletal fluorosis is a condition in which the bones become brittle and hard, leading to bone pain, higher risk of fracture, and other bone health risks. As anyone might guess, it’s the result of years of ingesting fluoride at levels higher than those recommended for ‘drinking water.’ Skeletal fluorosis is a particular problem in Asia. In its early stages, the condition is sometimes confused with rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis. Irritable bowel symptoms and joint pain have also been associated with skeletal fluorosis.24
Once fluoride is deposited in bone, it depletes glutathione, an important antioxidant and detoxifier in the body. When it does this, it affects the bone-forming (osteoblasts) and remodeling (osteoclasts) processes of the body. The result is increased bone breakdown and inflammation.25
In 1995 French research found an increased rate of hip fracture in individuals over the age of 65 who had been exposed to moderate concentrations of fluoride in water.26 Risk was significantly higher for hip fracture in those whose intake was 0.11mg per litre or higher, amounts found in so-called drinking water in many areas.
Both natural and unnatural fluoride accumulate in bone. In 1990, the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) studied the effects of fluoridated 09 water on the development of bone cancer and found an association between the development of bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in male animals at 100 and 175 parts per million.27
Another report from the New Jersey Department of Health suggests that there was a six-fold increase in osteosarcoma in males following exposure to fluoridated drinking water.28
A 2001 study conducted by a Harvard clinical instructor for her doctoral dissertation (published in 2006) presented evidence that boys have a higher risk of osteosarcoma with exposure to fluoridated water. Girls didn’t show a similar risk. Specifically, boys exposed to levels of fluoride as little as 1 part per million to a high of 4.07 parts per million developed more cases of osteosarcoma than boys who lived in communities with no fluoride added to their drinking water.
The results of the study suggest that the risk was age related. Between the ages of six and eight, when most children are experiencing growth spurts, the risk increased when the child was exposed to a higher level of fluoride in the water. By the age of 20, the risk of bone cancer was more than five times higher than those boys with the lowest levels of exposure to fluoride.29
Effects on other cancer risks
What the studies immediately above and other studies point out is that fluoride is potentially ‘mutagenic’, meaning that it triggers cellular changes and increases the risk of not only osteosarcoma but other forms of cancer.
Researchers have focused on occupational exposures to fluoride to get a better idea of its effect on cancer risk. A 12-year study of workers in the cryolite industry – where there’s a known occupational exposure to fluoride – found that there was an increased risk of bladder and lung cancer. It was an important study as it reported increased cancer levels due to fluoride itself and not exposure to other chemicals.30,31,32
Effects on kidneys
The only soft tissue that accumulates more fluoride than the thyroid is the kidney. Until 1970, kidney dialysis performed in fluoridated communities used the fluoridated tap water. In that year, it was discovered that those kidney-dialysis patients had high levels of fluoride in their blood, predisposing them to osteomalacia (‘painful bones’ in Latin), and softening of the bones.
Switching the water used in dialysis to non-fluoridated water (imagine that!) reduced the risk of those problems. Weak kidneys aren’t able to excrete fluoride as effectively as healthy kidneys.33,34
Fluoride promotes lead toxicity
An association has been found between intake of silicofluorides – the form of fluoride used in drinking water – and increased levels of lead in children. The presence of silicoflurorides in drinking water could be an additional risk factor in developing lead toxicity because this chemical may increase the uptake of lead in the body.
A study evaluating blood lead levels in more than 280,000 children in Massachusetts in the US, compared serum lead levels in 30 communities with fluoridated water versus 30 towns without fluoridated water. Children in the communities with fluoridated water were twice as likely to have serum lead levels in excess of 10mcg per decilitre. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that in towns and cities with above 15 parts per billion of lead in the water, adding silicofluorides to drinking water increased lead absorption even further. Similar results were found in communities in Georgia. There was also an association between more behaviour problems and an increased intake of silicofluorides and lead levels in both the Massachusetts and Georgia communities.35
The same researchers found similar increased lead levels in more than 150,000 venous blood results from children ages newborn to six years who lived in New York communities that add silicofluorides to drinking water. In their report, they wrote “We find that [silicofluoride] is consistently associated with increased risk of having [venous blood lead] >l0 [mg per 100ccs] for virtually any race/age group, controlling for most factors commonly associated with increased blood lead.”36
A very small step in the right direction
Finally in 2009, possibly as a result of the accumulation of adverse findings, the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reduced its recommendation for fluoride levels in water to no more than 0.7mg per litre (1000 ccs). In the UK, fluoridated areas have as much as 1.5mg per litre of flouride in drinking water. But for members of the generations deliberately exposed to higher levels of silicofluorides (the majority) and sodium fluoride, this reduction is likely too little, too late.
In the name of reducing tooth decay, people have been forced to drink water fluoridated with industry waste products that come with a staggeringly long list of potential side effects including neurotoxicity, lower IQ in children, hyperactivity (ADHD), hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, adverse effects on blood sugar, glutathione depletion in bone, increased risk of hip fracture in those over 65, osteosarcoma, possibly other cancers, and increased lead accumulation to name just a few. Meanwhile Xylitol – a safe, proven means of reducing tooth decay – is now available nearly everywhere.
Isn’t it time to stop dumping toxic industrial waste, with all its health risks, into our water supplies?Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Jonathan V. Wright
Nutrition & Healing
Volume 7, Issue 9 – September 2013
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.