Fluoride has been added to our drinking water supply in Australia since the 1960s. The population was told that it would improve the oral health of our nation. Even today, the NSW Government Health website state that many water utilities fluoridate the water supply to protect against tooth decay. They say that it is added in carefully controlled amounts and their levels are monitored to ensure they meet health guidelines.
Meanwhile, there have been several studies highlighting the dangers of humans consuming fluoride, especially concerning the health of children. A study published in the Lancet in 2014, titled Neurobehavioural effect of developmental toxicity, listed fluoride as a developmental neurotoxicant. A developmental neurotoxicant is a substance that damages, destroys, or impairs the function of the central and/or peripheral nervous system. This is then said to cause neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments. These affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency.
The study also highlights that developmental neurotoxicity causes brain damage that is too often untreatable and frequently permanent. The consequences of such brain damage are that the central nervous system function is impaired and might result in reduced intelligence, or disruption in behaviour. It states that the developing human brain is uniquely vulnerable to toxic chemical exposure, especially in uterio and during infancy and early childhood. The vulnerable nature of the brain during these early stages of life, make them more susceptible to damage, (even at low levels of exposure) compared to an adult brain that would experience little or no damage.
Parents have been scratching their heads for years wondering what has been causing all these disorders in our children. Is the simple answer that these disorders are due to what is being added to our drinking water? The concerning thing is that these studies have been around for many years, and nothing seems to be changing the mindset of our governments with respect to fluoridating our water supply in Australia.
Another study conducted in 2019 and published in JAMA Pediatrics, looked more specifically at the association between maternal fluoride exposure during pregnancy and IQ scores in offspring in Canada. It concluded that higher levels of fluoride exposure during pregnancy were associated with lower IQ scores in children. The study highlighted the fact that fluoride crosses the placenta, with laboratory studies showing that it accumulates in brain regions involved in learning and memory. It also discussed how fluoride alters proteins and neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.
Fluoride consumption has also been linked to skeletal fluorosis (weakening of the bones), kidney problems, arthritis, bone and uterine cancer, immune system suppression, birth defects and gastrointestinal disorders, although the results from the various studies conducted in these areas are mixed. Another health problem that fluoride has been shown to cause is dental fluorosis, which is a defect in tooth enamel. It is caused by ingesting too much fluoride in childhood and results in brown splotches and mottling of the teeth.
Many European countries have rejected the addition of fluoride to their drinking water. Research conducted by the Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology in 2007 claims that in general, the citizens of Europe felt that dental health was an issue to be dealt with at the level of the individual, rather than a solution to be imposed on the entire population. They accepted that while some children may not be encouraged to brush their teeth, they thought this should be addressed directly, and did not think it warranted a solution of unproved safety imposed on the whole population by public health authorities whom they did not fully trust. They did not see why they should accept potential side effects so that a minority may benefit.
So, how much fluoride is even added to our water supply here in Australia? And what are the levels considered safe by our health officials? The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released a publication ‘Water fluoridation and human health in Australia: Questions and Answers’ in 2017. This was done in consultation with the jurisdictional health departments, with the aim said to provide helpful information to support their 2017 Public Statement 2017. The publication recommends that an amount of 0.6-1.1 mg/L of fluoride be added to Australian drinking water, as the most effective way to reduce tooth decay.
To take a closer look at the water supply in my local area of Kempsey, NSW, I searched the Kempsey Shire Council website. There I discovered that the council uses the Australian Drinking Guidelines, which are based on drinking water guidelines developed by the World Health Organisation. The website also listed the types of tests they regularly conduct on the local water supply, including a fluoride test. There are no results available for the public to check the concentration of fluoride in that local supply.
It should be noted that the Australian Drinking Guidelines were published in 2011, although they do claim to undergo a rolling revision to ensure that they represent the latest scientific evidence on good quality drinking water.
My family connected an ion exchange resin filtration system to our household water supply, specially designed to remove fluoride from our drinking water. This is an added expense to the running of our household, however, one that we consider necessary. Other types of filtration systems, such as activated aluminium or reverse-osmosis membranes have also been shown to be effective at removing most of the fluoride from your domestic water supply. Obtaining your drinking water from a rainwater tank is another good alternative to having fluoride-free water to drink.
So, the question now needs to be asked, with all the knowledge available about fluoride, why does our government still consider it safe to use in our water supply, especially for our children?