Fluoride and Your Child's Brain, a Dangerous Combination?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates fluoride in drinking water, and many communities add fluoride to their water supply to promote dental health. But concerns about the hazards of fluoride have been growing, and a new study from Harvard suggests fluoride may have a negative effect on your child's brain that affects him for the rest of his life.
Fluoride can affect your child' brain
Fluoride in drinking water is a complex issue. Although the EPA has set health standards for fluoride--maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 4.0 mg/L or 4.0 ppm, the decision to add fluoride to a water supply is made by state or local municipalities and is not mandated by the EPA or any other Federal entity. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers recommendations about the optimal levels of fluoride in drinking water in order to prevent tooth decay.
But according to the authors of a new study at Harvard, "our results support the possibility of adverse effects of fluoride exposures on children's neurodevelopment." Specifically, Anna L. Choi and her colleagues reported that "The children in high fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ than those who lived in low fluoride areas."
The researchers conducted a meta-analysis to explore the impact of exposure to fluoride and delayed neurobehavioral development. Here are some findings about fluoride.
- When infant formula is mixed with fluoridated water, the resulting formula delivers 100 to 200 times more fluoride than does breast milk.
- In 2006, the National Research Council reviewed the EPA's safety standards on fluoride and determined that the 4 ppm level "should be lowered" because it placed individuals at increased risk for tooth and bone damage. It also noted that "It's apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain."
- Choi and her team reported that fluoride can easily cross the placenta and that exposure of the developing brain to fluoride "may possibly lead to damage of a permanent nature."
A study from 2010 in Current Science looked at the impact of fluoride in water on anemic pregnant women. The researchers found that women who avoided fluoride had considerably fewer cases of anemia, premature births, and infants with low-birth-weight than women who were exposed to fluoride. In addition, the author found that fluoride consumption reduced red blood cell counts, inhibited the production of vitamin B12, reduced folic acid activity, and reduced the absorption of nutrients necessary for hemoglobin synthesis.
The use of fluoride in drinking water has been falling increasingly into disfavor as research raises a growing number of health concerns. According to attorney and NYS Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation president Paul Beeber, "Even if fluoridation reduced cavities, is tooth health more important than brain health?"
Individuals who are concerned about the fluoride in their drinking water should contact the water provider in their area and ask whether fluoride is added to the supply. You can also purchase fluoride testing kits and test your own water. Besides drinking water, children can be exposed to fluoride in toothpaste, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments at dental offices.
Choi AL et al. Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives 2012 July. DOI:10.1289/ehp.1104912
Environmental Protection Agency
Fluoride Action Network