The Absurdities of Water Fluoridation
This Practice Is Unethical,
Unnecessary, Ineffective, Unsafe, And Inequitable.
Any So-Called Expert On Fluoridation Who Thinks Otherwise Is
Invited To An Open Public Debate On This Issue
by Paul Connett, PhD
Water fluoridation is a peculiarly American
phenomenon. It started at a time when Asbestos lined our pipes,
lead was added to gasoline, PCBs filled our transformers and DDT
was deemed so "safe and effective" that officials felt no qualms
spraying kids in school classrooms and seated at picnic tables.
One by one all these chemicals have been banned, but
fluoridation remains untouched.
For over 50 years US government officials have confidently
and enthusiastically claimed that fluoridation is "safe and
effective". However, they are seldom prepared to defend the
practice in open public debate. Actually, there are so many
arguments against fluoridation that it can get overwhelming. To
simplify things it helps to separate the ethical from the
For those for which ethical concerns are paramount, the issue
of fluoridation is very simple to resolve. It is simply not
ethical; we simply shouldn't be forcing medication on people
without their "informed consent". The bad news, is that ethical
arguments are not very influential in Washington, DC unless
politicians are very conscious of millions of people watching
them. The good news is that the ethical arguments are buttressed
by solid common sense arguments and scientific studies which
convincingly show that fluoridation is neither "safe and
effective" nor necessary. I have summarized the arguments in
Fluoridation is UNETHICAL because:
- 1) It violates the individual's right to informed consent
- 2) The municipality cannot control the dose of the
- 3) The municipality cannot track each individual's
- 4) It ignores the fact that some people are more
vulnerable to fluoride's toxic effects than others. Some
people will suffer while others may benefit.
- 5) It violates the Nuremberg code for human
As stated by the recent recipient of the Nobel Prize for
Dr. Arvid Carlsson:
"I am quite convinced that water fluoridation, in a
not-too-distant future, will be consigned to medical
history...Water fluoridation goes against leading principles
of pharmacotherapy, which is progressing from a stereotyped
medication - of the type 1 tablet 3 times a day - to a much
more individualized therapy as regards both dosage and
selection of drugs. The addition of drugs to the drinking
water means exactly the opposite of an individualized
As stated by Dr. Peter Mansfield, a physician from the UK and
advisory board member of the recent government review of
fluoridation (McDonagh et al 2000):
"No physician in his right senses would prescribe for a
person he has never met, whose medical history he does not
know, a substance which is intended to create bodily change,
with the advice: 'Take as much as you like, but you will take
it for the rest of your life because some children suffer from
tooth decay. ' It is a preposterous notion."
Fluoridation is UNNECESSARY because:
- 1) Children can have perfectly good teeth without being
exposed to fluoride.
- 2) The promoters (CDC, 1999, 2001) admit that the benefits
are topical not systemic, so fluoridated toothpaste, which is
universally available, is a more rational approach to
delivering fluoride to the target organ (teeth) while
minimizing exposure to the rest of the body.
- 3) The vast majority of western
Europe has rejected water fluoridation, but has been
equally successful as the US, if not more so, in tackling
- 4) If fluoride was necessary for strong teeth one would
expect to find it in breast milk, but the level there is 0.01
ppm , which is 100 times LESS than in fluoridated tap water
- 5) Children in non-fluoridated communities are already
getting the so-called "optimal" doses from other sources
(Heller et al, 1997). In fact, many are already being
over-exposed to fluoride.
Fluoridation is INEFFECTIVE because:
- 1) Major dental researchers concede that fluoride's
benefits are topical not systemic (Fejerskov 1981; Carlos
1983; CDC 1999, 2001; Limeback 1999; Locker 1999; Featherstone
- 2) Major dental researchers also concede that fluoride is
ineffective at preventing pit and fissure tooth decay, which
is 85% of the tooth decay experienced by children (JADA 1984;
Gray 1987; White 1993; Pinkham 1999).
- 3) Several studies indicate that dental decay is coming
down just as fast, if not faster, in non-fluoridated
industrialized countries as fluoridated ones (Diesendorf,
1986; Colquhoun, 1994; World Health Organization, Online).
- 4) The largest survey conducted in the US showed only a
minute difference in tooth decay between children who had
lived all their lives in fluoridated compared to
non-fluoridated communities. The difference was not clinically
significant nor shown to be statistically significant (Brunelle
& Carlos, 1990).
- 5) The worst tooth decay in the United States occurs in
poor neighborhoods of our largest cities, the vast
majority of which have been fluoridated for decades.
- 6) When fluoridation has been halted in communities in
Finland, former East Germany, Cuba and Canada, tooth decay did
not go up but continued to go down (Maupome et al, 2001;
Kunzel and Fischer, 1997, 2000; Kunzel et al, 2000 and Seppa
et al, 2000).
Fluoridation is UNSAFE because:
- 1) It accumulates in our
bones and makes them more brittle and prone to fracture.
The weight of evidence from animal studies, clinical studies
and epidemiological studies on this is overwhelming. Lifetime
exposure to fluoride will contribute to higher rates of hip
fracture in the elderly. (
- 2) It accumulates in our
pineal gland, possibly lowering the production of
melatonin a very important regulatory hormone (Luke, 1997,
- 3) It damages the enamel (dental fluorosis) of a high
percentage of children. Between 30 and 50% of children have
dental fluorosis on at least two teeth in optimally
fluoridated communities (Heller et al, 1997 and McDonagh et
- 4) There are serious, but yet unproven, concerns about a
connection between fluoridation and
osteosarcoma in young men (Cohn, 1992), as well as
fluoridation and the current epidemics of both
- 5) In animal studies fluoride at 1 ppm in drinking water
increases the uptake of
aluminum into the brain (Varner et al, 1998).
- 6) Counties with 3 ppm or more of fluoride in their water
have lower fertility rates (Freni, 1994).
- 7) In human studies the fluoridating agents most commonly
used in the US not only increase the uptake of
lead into children's blood (Masters and Coplan, 1999,
2000) but are also associated with an increase in violent
- 8) The margin of safety between the so-called therapeutic
benefit of reducing dental decay and many of these end points
is either nonexistent or precariously low.
Fluoridation is INEQUITABLE, because:
- 1) It will go to all households, and the poor cannot
afford to avoid it, if they want to, because they will not be
able to purchase bottled water or expensive
- 2) The poor are more likely to suffer poor nutrition which
is known to make children more vulnerable to fluoride's toxic
effects (Massler & Schour 1952; Marier & Rose 1977; ATSDR
1993; Teotia et al, 1998).
- 3) Very rarely, if ever, do governments offer to pay the
costs of those who are unfortunate enough to get dental
fluorosis severe enough to require expensive treatment.
Fluoridation is INEFFICIENT and NOT COST-EFFECTIVE
- 1) Only a small fraction of the water fluoridated actually
reaches the target. Most of it ends up being used to wash the
dishes, to flush the toilet or to water our lawns and gardens.
- 2) It would be totally cost-prohibitive to use
pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride (the substance which has
been tested) as a fluoridating agent for the public water
supply. Water fluoridation is artificially cheap because,
unknown to most people, the fluoridating agent is an
hazardous waste product from the
phosphate fertilizer industry.
- 3) If it was deemed appropriate to swallow fluoride (even
though its major benefits are topical not systemic) a safer
and more cost-effective approach would be to provide
fluoridated bottle water in supermarkets free of charge. This
approach would allow both the quality and the dose to be
controlled. Moreover, it would not force it on people who
don't want it.
Fluoridation is UNSCIENTIFICALLY PROMOTED. For
- 1) In 1950, the US Public Health Service enthusiastically
endorsed fluoridation before one single trial had been
- 2) Even though we are getting many more sources of
fluoride today than we were in 1945, the so called "optimal
concentration" of 1 ppm has remained unchanged.
- 3) The US Public health Service has never felt obliged to
monitor the fluoride levels in our bones even though they have
known for years that 50% of the fluoride we swallow each day
- 4) Officials that promote fluoridation never check to see
what the levels of dental fluorosis are in the communities
before they fluoridate, even though they know that this level
indicates whether children are being overdosed or not.
- 5) No US agency has yet to respond to Luke's finding that
fluoride accumulates in the human pineal gland, even though
her finding was published in 1994 (abstract), 1997 (Ph. D.
thesis), 1998 (paper presented at conference of the
International Society for Fluoride Research), and 2001
(published in Caries Research).
- 6) The CDC's 1999, 2001 reports advocating fluoridation
were both six years out of date in the research they cited on
Fluoridation is UNDEFENDABLE IN OPEN PUBLIC DEBATE.
The proponents of water fluoridation refuse to defend this
open debate because they know that they would lose that
debate. A vast majority of the health officials around the US
and in other countries who promote water fluoridation do so
based upon someone else's advice and not based upon a first hand
familiarity with the scientific literature. This second hand
information produces second rate confidence when they are
challenged to defend their position. Their position has more to
do with faith than it does with reason.
Those who pull the strings of these public health 'puppets',
do know the issues, and are cynically playing for time and
hoping that they can continue to fool people with the recitation
of a long list of "authorities" which support fluoridation
instead of engaging the key issues. As
Brian Martin made clear in his book Scientific Knowledge in
Controversy. The Social Dynamics of the Fluoridation Debate
(1991), the promotion of fluoridation is based upon the exercise
of political power not on rational analysis. The question to
answer, therefore, is: "Why is the US Public Health Service
choosing to exercise its power in this way?"
Motivations - especially those which have operated over
several generations of decision makers - are always difficult to
ascertain. However, whether intended or not, fluoridation has
served to distract us from several key issues. It has distracted
- a) The failure of one of the richest countries in the
world to provide decent
dental care for poor people.
- b) The failure of 80% of American dentists to treat
children on Medicaid.
- c) The failure of the public health community to fight the
huge over consumption of sugary foods by our nation's
children, even to the point of turning a blind eye to the
wholesale introduction of soft drink machines into our
schools. Their attitude seems to be if fluoride can stop
dental decay why bother controlling sugar intake.
- d) The failure to adequately address the health and
ecological effects of
fluoride pollution from large industry. Despite the damage
which fluoride pollution has caused, and is still causing, few
environmentalists have ever conceived of fluoride as a
- e) The failure of the US EPA to develop a
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for fluoride in water
which can be scientifically defended.
- f) The fact that more and more
organofluorine compounds are being introduced into
commerce in the form of plastics, pharmaceuticals and
pesticides. Despite the fact that some of these compounds pose
just as much a threat to our health and environment as their
chlorinated and brominated counterparts (i.e. they are highly
persistent and fat soluble and many accumulate in the food
chains and our body fat), those organizations and agencies
which have acted to limit the wide-scale dissemination of
these other halogenated products, seem to have a blind spot
for the dangers posed by organofluorine compounds.
So while fluoridation is neither effective nor safe, it
continues to provide a convenient cover for many of the
interests which stand to profit from the public being
misinformed about fluoride.
Unfortunately, because government officials have put so much
of their credibility on the line defending fluoridation, it will
be very difficult for them to speak honestly and openly about
the issue. As with the case of
mercury amalgams, it is difficult for institutions such as
the American Dental Association to concede health risks because
of the liabilities waiting in the wings if they were to do so.
However, difficult as it may be, it is nonetheless essential
- in order to protect millions of people from unnecessary harm -
that the US Government begin to move away from its
anachronistic, and increasingly absurd, status quo on this
issue. There are precedents. They were able to do this with
hormone replacement therapy.
But getting any honest action out of the US Government on
this is going to be difficult. Effecting change is like driving
a nail through wood - science can sharpen the nail but we need
the weight of public opinion to drive it home. Thus, it is going
to require a sustained effort to educate the American people and
then recruiting their help to put sustained pressure on our
political representatives. At the very least we need a
moratorium on fluoridation (which simply means turning off the
tap for a few months) until there has been a full Congressional
hearing on the key issues with testimony offered by scientists
on both sides. With the issue of education we are in better
shape than ever before. Most of the key studies are available on
the internet (
and there are videotaped interviews with many of the scientists
and protagonists whose work has been so important to a modern
re-evaluation of this issue (see Videos at
With this new information, more and more communities are
rejecting new fluoridation proposals at the local level. On the
national level, there have been some hopeful developments as
well, such as the
EPA Headquarters Union coming out against fluoridation and
Sierra Club seeking to have the issue re-examined. However,
there is still a huge need for other national groups to get
involved in order to make this the national issue it desperately
needs to be.
I hope that if there are RFW readers who disagree with me on
this, they will rebut these arguments. If they can't than I hope
they will get off the fence and help end one of the silliest
policies ever inflicted on the citizens of the US. It is time to
end this folly of water fluoridation without further delay. It
is not going to be easy. Fluoridation represents a very powerful
"belief system" backed up by special interests and by entrenched
governmental power and influence.
All references cited can be found at