Evidence shows it is neither effective nor safe
"Fluoridation is an obsolete practice. It goes against all principles of modern pharmacology" - Dr Arvid Carlsson (Nobel Laureate in medicine).
"Fluoride is causing a greater overall loss of IQ points today than lead, arsenic or mercury" - Dr Philippe Grandjean (Harvard University).
Parliament is to be asked by the Government to pass a new Health and Care Bill. Among much else, it has two sections to facilitate water fluoridation by moving responsibility for it from local councils to central government.
Members of Parliament will be urged by the fluoridation lobby to support the legislation. To defeat it will need alerting the public and MPs to the following facts.
Lack of benefit
Addition of fluoride to water supplies started experimentally in America in 1945. However, well before the trials had been completed, the US Public Health Service and the American Dental and Medical Associations endorsed the chemical's use.
The reason for their undue haste was discovered only decades later. In due course the government and Dental and Medical Associations in Britain followed the American lead.
The ADA had opposed fluoridation but became keen after receiving a large donation from an industrialist with a stake in fluoride's commercial use (Bryson, pp42-44).
Independent studies, by Philip Sutton, and by Rudolf Ziegelbecker, found the trials had been full of errors, but by then the authorities had firmly attached their reputations to the claim that fluoridation was effective and safe, and there was a huge campaign to promote fluoridation.
Praising Ziegelbecker's research, Prof Erich Naumann, Director of the German Federal Health Office, added: "It is regrettable that the existing data on water fluoridation had not been examined earlier using mathematical-statistical methods. Otherwise the myth of drinking water fluoridation would have already dissolved into air long ago."
However, in 1951 Dr Frank Bull told a confidential gathering of State Dental Directors in the USA: "We have told the public it works, so we can’t go back on that".
Many trials of fluoridation have declared that it works, but their purpose has almost always been to proclaim good results rather than to investigate them rigorously. It was officially stated that pilot studies in the UK should include "full medical and dental examinations at all ages", but no medical examinations were done, and neither short-term nor long-term possible side-effects were explored.
When trials started in Britain, Dr Geoffrey Dobbs wrote in New Scientist (31 October 1957) that they "are now officially described as demonstrations of the benefits of fluoridation, not experiments, so the results are a foregone conclusion" and their purpose quite openly "promotional".
When Dr John Colquhoun compared data for tooth decay in children throughout New Zealand, aged 5 and 12, he found that those in unfluoridated areas had teeth as good as those in fluoridated areas. Twenty years later, in 1998, Dr Betty de Liefde did a similar study (Connett, p60) on permanent teeth and also found practically no difference.
A report by the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at the University of York concluded in 2000 that, despite many studies over 50 years, "We were unable to discover any reliable good-quality evidence in the fluoridation literature world-wide".
A Cochrane review in 2015 said that, "There is very little contemporary evidence, meeting the review's inclusion criteria, that has evaluated the effectiveness of water fluoridation for the prevention of caries". Moreover, while reduced decay in children’s teeth was reported, there were "concerns about the methods used, or the reporting of the results, in the vast majority (97%) of the studies".
When Israel ended fluoridation in 2014-15 (partly because of health concerns), its Ministry of Health pointed out that there was no significant difference in the level of tooth decay between countries that fluoridate and those that do not fluoridate.
Harm from fluoridation
Much evidence of harm from fluoridation is described in the book, The case against fluoride: how hazardous waste ended up in our drinking water and the bad science and powerful politics that keep it there (2010).
In 2006 the US National Research Council found that fluoride exposure is plausibly associated with neurotoxicity, gastrointestinal problems, endocrine problems and other ailments. It was also unable to rule out an increased risk of cancer and of Down syndrome in children. (The case against fluoride, pp.143-145).
In 2017 a team of experts in Chile, supported by the Medical College of Chile, concluded that fluoridation is ineffectual and harmful, having considered such aspects as fluoride's ability to cause bone, thyroid and neurological damage.
As of June 2021, studies based on IQ examinations of 26,245 children (68 studies) and 245 adults (2 studies), have provided compelling evidence that fluoride exposure during the early years of life can damage a child’s developing brain. After reviewing 27 of the human IQ studies, a team of Harvard scientists concluded that fluoride's effect on the young brain should now be a "high research priority".
Most of those who promote fluoridation believe what they were taught, and are unaware of the strength of contrary evidence. However, some discover eventually that they had been misled. They include Dr John Colquhoun who wrote "Why I changed my mind about water fluoridation".
Similarly, Dr Richard Foulkes chaired a committee that recommended fluoridation in British Columbia, but he later changed his mind after doing his own research, and said: "My initial belief was based on information given to me by those in authority rather than on the basis of my examination of the facts".
Dr Hardy Limeback was Head of Preventive Dentistry at the University of Toronto, and former President of the Canadian Association for Dental Research, when in 1999 he apologised for having promoted fluoridation, confessing that for years he had refused to study the toxicology information.
In 2015 Professor Stephen Peckham reported that fluoridated areas of England have higher rates of hypothyroidism, which produces debilitating symptoms such as tiredness and depression, than unfluoridated areas.
In 2019 the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study of fluoride damage to the eye, noting that degenerative eye diseases, especially age-related macular degeneration, are significantly more prevalent in developed countries that are fluoridated than in those that are not.
Dr Philippe Grandjean of Harvard University states, as described in this risk analysis, that "Fluoride is causing a greater overall loss of IQ points today than lead, arsenic or mercury".
Fluoride is not used to treat water to make it clean and safe. The water is used, insidiously, to convey fluoride into consumers' bodies. It is supposed to be prophylactic (preventative) medication. However, the amount of water people drink varies widely, so the dose is haphazard. It ignores medical condition, such as pregnancy, diabetes and kidney disease (dialysis for kidney patients must never use fluoridated water as they can die from it).
When people drink fluoridated water, or consume food or drink prepared with it (either domestically or in a factory), they are made to ingest the chemical. It cannot be removed either by boiling the water or by using ordinary water filters.
Bottle-fed babies get far more fluoride that those that are breast-fed. After years of saying that pregnant women should take fluoride for the alleged benefit of their unborn children, the American Dental Association conceded in 2006, with little publicity, that "using water that has no or low levels of fluoride" should be considered when preparing formula milk for infants. This implies that parents, even the poorest, must suffer the trouble and expense of getting bottled water if they bottle-feed infants and wish to avoid harming them.
There is a widely accepted principle of informed consent for all medical treatment except in a few extreme cases, but fluoridation ignores this and is therefore unethical.
Countries for and against
The authorities in some countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, USA, and UK (currently for about 10% of the population), accept fluoridation. Other countriess reject it, including Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Sweden. Several rejected it after trying it.
In the UK, the first four areas to accept fluoridation were Andover, part of Anglesey, Kilmarnock and Watford. All, for various reasons, sooner or later stopped it.
The Irish Republic has compulsory fluoridation throughout, despite much local opposition. In 2014, Cork County Council and Laois County Council passed motions for the cessation of water fluoridation, followed by Cork City Council, Dublin City Council and Kerry County Council. However, owing to centralised control local wishes were ignored.
Astonishing as it might seem, promotion of water fluoridation was linked to the project to create the first atomic bombs. It took more than half a century before secret US government documents were declassified and the connection was discovered.
During his research, Christopher Bryson, an award-winning investigative reporter, discovered that the long-hidden motive was not to prevent dental decay but to protect industrial interests including those of works that supplied fluoride to make the bombs.
The purpose of fluoridation was to transform fluoride, seen as a dangerous pollutant that was damaging to health, into something to be regarded as not only harmless but even beneficial. The plan involved suppression of evidence of fluoride's toxicity, coupled with deceitful publicity.
The transformation of fluoride's public image was achieved with the help of Edward Bernays ("the father of public relations"), an expert in the use of psychological techniques to achieve what he called "manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses". He had devised a way to get American women to take up smoking. Noted for that success, he was asked to help with fluoridation, using what he called "the engineering of consent". (Bryson, 2006, pp158-164.)
The leading initial promoter of fluoridation was Dr Harold Hodge who had the idea of calming the public's fears about fluoride pollution by talking about its usefulness for teeth. In January 1944, a secret conference took place in New York, and documents from it connect the atomic-bomb project, for which Hodge had worked, to water fluoridation. (Bryson, pp72, 77, 80.)
Hodge insisted that fluoridation was harmless, and he claimed that it would take a massive dose of fluoride to produce injury. Some 25 years later, he quietly admitted in an obscure paper in 1979 that he had been wrong. By then fluoridation was firmly established, and his confession was too late. (Bryson, p157.)
A study on workers at the Harshaw Chemical Company in Cleveland was important in promoting the idea that fluoride reduces tooth decay. It said workers exposed to fluoride had fewer cavities than those unexposed to it. However, the secret version of the report stated that most of the men had few or no teeth, and that corrosion affected such teeth as they had. The deceitful public version helped, as its producers wanted, to shift the medical debate over exposure to industrial fluoride. (Bryson, pp88-90.)
A Committee to Protect Our Children’s Teeth was formed. It had strong links to the military-industrial complex and to the efforts of relevant manufacturers to escape liability for fluoride pollution. In 1956 it published Our Children's Teeth, a booklet that was promptly used in court by lawyers for the aluminium company Reynolds to indicate the harmlessness of even low concentrations of fluoride.
The transformed perception long served those who were accused of harm caused by fluoride. In 2000, when Reynolds Metals was taken to court by employees, fluoridation was used as a defence, by pouring scorn on the idea that workers could possibly have been harmed by something that is beneficial for children. (Bryson, p208.)
The review of Bryson's book in Chemical & Engineering News stated: "We are left with compelling evidence that powerful interests with high financial stakes have colluded to prematurely close honest discussion and investogation into fluoride toxicity".
Publisher's Weekly said: "Bryson marshals an impressive amount of research to demonstrate fluoride's harmfulness. ... The result is a compelling challenge to the reigning dental orthodoxy, which should provoke renewed scientific scrutiny and public debate".
However, debate is not what fluoridation's promoters want. Bernays advised them to avoid it, and give the impression that fluoridation is uncontroversial. This is what they still do.
Q. The NHS says that fluoride "is a naturally occurring mineral found in water in varying amounts, depending on where in the UK you live". Is this true?
A. Yes, but it is misleading since in most areas there is very little natural fluoride. Moreover, being natural does not mean that something is safe. For example, some plants are edible but others are poisonous, and the same variation occurs with water.
Some water is naturally harmful, mainly because of arsenic or fluoride which are "recognized worldwide as the most serious inorganic contaminants in drinking water".
Q. What happens to the fluoride when the water has been used?
A. Most water is used for washing etc, and the fluoride it carries, which is not biodegradable, goes into the environment. Like lead, fluorine (the chemical element in all fluorides) is a cumulative poison. Of the amount we consume, about half stays in the body. It affects the bones, the brain, the thyroid gland and the pineal gland.
Fluoride Free Alliance UK
Fluoride Action Network
Citizens for Safe Drinking Water
The fluoride deception - by Christopher Bryson (Seven Stories Press, 2004 and 2006). The text can be read or downloaded here.
The case against fluoride: how hazardous waste ended up in our drinking water and the bad science and powerful politics that keep it there - by Paul Connett, James Beck and H.S. Micklem (Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2010).
To report an error, write to "report" followed by the usual symbol and "stopfluoridation" full stop "uk" (with no spaces or quotation marks).