Published on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 11:00
Fluoride is an ion derived from the element fluorine. Fluorine is an abundant element; it is found naturally in the environment both in air and water. Communities in the United States have been adding fluoride to water – despite the fact that its presence occurs naturally in water – since around the time of World War II. Dentists say that the presence of human-added fluoride helps prevent tooth decay.
There is fierce division over whether adding fluoride to water is an ethical practice or not. The addition of fluoride to water is in the most basic sense a medical treatment – it's adding what amounts to a drug to our water supply. Regardless of whether citizens want fluoride or not, they have no choice but to have it in their water. This violates the practice of informed consent, which would allow a patient to choose whether or not he or she receives therapy. In this sense, adding fluoride to water could certainly be seen as an over-step of power on the part of government regulators.
In addition to the ethical debate, there is division over whether fluoride is effective as a preventer of tooth decay. The American Dental Hygienists' Association says that, "Fluoridation of drinking water has been credited with reducing tooth decay 50%-60% in the United States since World War II." They note that frequent exposure via drinking water and fluoridated toothpaste is one of the best ways to prevent cavities. On the other hand, watchdog groups site the fact that tooth decay is not the result of a fluoride deficiency, and that no randomized trials – the benchmark for determining safety – have been conducted to test the safety of water fluoridation. They also cite the fact that many industrialized nations have rejected the use of fluoride in water and have experienced similar rates in the decline of tooth decay.
For all of its purported tooth benefits, fluoride has a darker side. There is evidence to support the idea that fluoride may damage the brain and lower IQ. The concentration of fluoride in breast milk is extremely low compared to fluoridated water; this means, babies being bottle-fed are exposed to as much as 300 times the amount of fluoride they would have otherwise received. This puts these children – in their most vulnerable developmental state – at a huge risk. Fluoride has also been shown to negatively effect the pineal gland, the thyroid, the kidneys and bones.
With all the confusion surrounding fluoride, it may be best to avoid it. To do this, drink only non-fluoridated, pure water; especially as part of a Phase 1 diet, purity in all foods – whether it is organic vegetables, grass fed beef or clean water – is critical. Avoid toothpastes with added fluoride. Shower filters may help minimize the amount of fluoride in your shower water. Time will reveal whether fluoride is friend or foe, but in the meantime it is better to be safe than sorry.