For many years, the use of fluoride in public water supplies has been hailed as a great advancement in public health. But a closer look at fluoride itself and the circumstances surrounding its widespread acceptance in the medical profession raise serious questions about the wisdom of its continued use.

Fluoride is a toxic chemical, a by-product of the production of both aluminum and phosphate fertilizer, and because it is so potent, its disposal is tightly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, once it is sold as an additive for drinking water supplies, the EPA’s oversight role is eliminated. Fluoride has been banned in most European countries, and is prohibited in certain water systems in the United States.

Fluoride is not an essential nutrient. No peer-reviewed study has ever indicated that humans require fluoride, even for dental health. And contrary to widely-held beliefs, ingested fluoride shows little benefit compared to topical fluoride use in preventing tooth decay. Over the past 50 years there has been a significant decrease in tooth decay in the general population in all western countries, regardless of whether or not they fluoridate their water.

Recent studies have shown that ingestion of fluoride can lead to decreased brain function in humans, including lower IQ in children. Exposure to fluoride has also been shown to increase the severity of diabetes. Fluoride has been identified by the National Research Council as an endocrine disruptor that may reduce thyroid function in some individuals, possibly leading to depression and weight gain.

In addition, a growing body of scientific evidence indicates that certain at-risk populations such as infants, young children, breast-feeding women and individuals with renal disease, nutrient deficiencies and diabetes should not consume fluoridated water in any amount. Even the American Dental Association advises parents to avoid preparing baby formula with fluoridated water or giving infants fluoridated water to drink. It also recommends reduced levels of fluoride exposure for children under 6 years of age.

For small children, topical applications of fluoride can be helpful in reducing tooth decay, but vitamins or food supplements containing fluoride should be avoided.

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The Fluoride Action Network is an international coalition of dental professionals and scientists seeking to broaden public awareness about the toxicity of fluoride compounds.