"Look - it's a bird, it's a plane ... no, it's EcoGirl!"

Ask EcoGirl

A syndicated eco-advice column
Written by Patricia Dines

"Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone!"

"Making it easy to be green!"

This Month's Column:
Should We Fluoridate Our Water?

PDF VERSION OF THIS COLUMN -- formatted with the EcoGirl logo and ready to print! (Click here to download a PDF reader.)

ASK ECOGIRL'S HOME PAGE -- for more information, including how she can appear in your publication.


Should We Fluoridate Our Water?

By Patricia Dines
Published in the Sonoma County Gazette
February 2013
(c) Patricia Dines, 2013. All rights reserved.

Over the past few years, a controversy has been brewing in Sonoma County over the proposed addition of fluoride to the water supply for most of our homes, schools, businesses, and restaurants. This issue is coming before the Board of Supervisors again in the next month or two, when they'll discuss the feasibility study and recommendations.

So you might be thinking, "But isn't fluoride a good thing?" And the well-meaning proponents do make appealing claims of public dental health benefits, especially for lower-income people.

Unfortunately, though, these claims don't match the facts. This isn't the quick fix some want it to be! So here's what I see as the core problems with fluoridation. I hope that this helps us reject it and pursue more sensible solutions. (I've put my sources and more information at www.patriciadines.info/EcoGirl6h.html. [That's this page!])

Key facts

First, I want to say that I do feel that fluoride can promote dental health -- when it's (1) pharmaceutical-grade, (2) applied topically to tooth surfaces via toothpaste or a dentist, (3) in small controlled doses, and (4) in ways that match a person's needs and choices. [Note 1]

However, putting fluoride into our public water fails on all four of these counts. There are vital differences between fluoride in dental products and in municipal water. Specifically:

1) The fluoride used in municipal water fluoridation is not pharmaceutical grade. It's not even the same fluorine compound. Plus it's often industrial waste that's otherwise illegal to discard in the environment and contaminated with toxics like arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury -- even radioactive particles! [Note 2]

2) Putting fluoride in the water does not apply it topically but systemically (in the whole body). It's like drinking sunscreen to try to prevent sunburn! Ingestion of fluoridated water has been linked to significant health harm, even at low levels, including: increased hip and other bone fractures, bone cancer, arthritis-like symptoms, lowered fertility, decreased IQ, dementia-like effects -- and mottled and brittle teeth (called dental fluorosis). Yes, drinking fluoridated water can actually harm teeth! [Note 3]

3) Water fluoridation does not offer small controlled doses, and can easily push people over safe exposure levels. That's especially true since we're also exposed through our toothpaste, food, beverages, and industrial pollution. [Note 4]

4) Many "non-target" people would be consuming fluoride against their will. This includes those medically advised to avoid fluoride (e.g., infants and kidney patients) and those sensitive to it at low levels (who'd suffer fatigue, headaches, rashes, and gastrointestinal problems).

But the most important point is that fluoridating water is actually not proven to improve dental outcomes. The Fluoride Action Network says, "There has never been a single randomized clinical trial to demonstrate fluoridation's effectiveness or safety." The studies that launched fluoridation decades ago have been dismissed by experts for highly unscientific methodology. Over the past 50 years, tooth decay has dropped at similar rates in all western countries, most of which never fluoridated. [Note 5]

The bottom line is that quality fluoride compounds can be helpful as medicine but only when administered in professional ways, not broadcast in our shared water. That's why most developed countries do not fluoridate their water supplies, including Japan and nearly all of western Europe. [Note 6]

Additional harmful impacts

1) Fluoridation would burden, not help, low-income folks. People with inadequate nutrition are more vulnerable to fluoride's harmful effects. Plus, low-income people can't afford expensive water systems to remove fluoride, for instance to avoid giving it to infants. [note 7]

2) Nearly all fluoridated water ends up in the environment, through direct use and sewer systems, and at levels shown to harm salmon and other water creatures. Fluoride is also known to hurt crops, livestock, trees, and plants. [Note 8]

What you can do

1) Sign, forward, and Facebook this petition against Sonoma County fluoridation. www.change.org/petitions/sonoma-county-board-of-supervisors-stop-planning-for-fluoridation-of-public-water-supply [Note 9]

2) Tell your Supervisor that you're opposed to fluoridation. Speak in respectful fact-based ways, to show that this isn't a wacky fringe issue. http://supervisors.sonoma-county.org. [Note 10]

3) Watch for and participate in the upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting.

I hope you find this information helpful. I invite you to share it with others!

 • • •

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter. Email your questions about going green to <EcoGirl [at] AskEcoGirl.info> for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at <www.AskEcoGirl.info>.

You can also become a Facebook fan of "Ask EcoGirl", to show your support and stay in touch! Join at www.facebook.com/AskEcoGirl.

"EcoGirl: Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone."

© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2013. All rights reserved.


>> The Supervisors' meeting mentioned in this column did occur. Many folks came out to speak their opposition in fact-based ways. Nevertheless, the Supervisors voted to pursue the next step of implementation. Unfortunately most seem to hold the outdated belief that fluoridation is good for dental health. Here's the Press Democrat's coverage of this meeting.

"Supervisor vote to move ahead with fluoridation studies after lengthy hearing," By Derek Moore, Press Democrat, February 26, 2013

>> I believe that we can turn the tide on it, but only if there's smart broader scale objections among the local population. We've been talking about good ways we can direct our energy; please connect to find out more!

>> I invite you to read my April column, which offers more information on CWF, with citations, at www.patriciadines.info/EcoGirl6j.html. You can also download a PDF of each of these columns on their webpages, then print them double-sided for a handout. (I give this permission for limited copies and non-commercial use.)

>> I've created an easy actions page, for you to read and share. www.healthyworld.org/StopSCFAction.html

>> Here are some good general resources on this topic:

Fluoride Action Network www.fluoridealert.org

Movie: Fluoridegate: An American Tragedy, by Dr. David Kennedy. This engaging and informative documentary film shares the experiences of scientists who sought to ring the alarm about Community Water Fluoridation. (65 minutes) www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrWFnGpX9wY

Book: The Case Against Fluoride, By Dr. Paul Connett, et al

Book chapter: "A Response to Pro-Fluoridation Claims," from The Case Against Fluoride, by Dr. Paul Connett, et al. Dr. Connett is a scientific professional who supported CWF until he looked at the science. Hopefully more health professionals and decisionmakers will also reconsider their opinions based on what we know today. www.fluoridealert.org/uploads/proponent_claims.pdf

"[Water fluoridation] is against all principles of modern pharmacology. It's really obsolete. No doubt about that. I think those nations that are using it should feel ashamed of themselves. It's against science….

"In modern pharmacology it's so clear that even if you have a fixed dose of a drug, the individuals respond very differently to one and the same dose. Now, in this case, you have it in the water and people are drinking different amounts of water. So you have huge variations in the consumption of this drug. So, it's against all modern principles of pharmacology. It's obsolete, I don't think anybody in Sweden, not a single dentist, would bring up this question anymore."

- Dr. Arvid Carlsson, famed pharmacologist at Gothenburg University,
2000 winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology


In this article, I've sought to present what I think are the core arguments that undermine the case for water fluoridation. By core I mean this: If these concerns are in fact true and not disproven, then we should not proceed with fluoridation. That is -- if the material is toxic, if this mode of action is not proven effective for our goals, if we can easily get too much, if it's shown to cause harm to people and the planet -- then we shouldn't do it.

There are lots more details, evidence, and arguments against fluoridation. And I'll give you some links. Books have been written and there's lots of supporting evidence for each point.

But I think it's also vital that we not get too lost in the details that we forget the key points. The fluoridation opponents have provided more than enough evidence of floridation's harm and lack of effectiveness. Now it's up to the proponents to provide persuasive evidence on the above points that is sufficient to override our right to choose what goes in their bodies. I just don't think the evidence is there to do that. We should not poison our shared water for unproven goals, even if they're well-meaning.

I think the most difficult thing about this topic is that the American Dental Association (ADA) make unproven claims that water fluoridation helps dental health. But they are just repeating mantras built on stories that are decades old that have been disproven and discredited.

I know it can be difficult for some people to question an expert, but we have a right to do so. Their word alone is not evidence. Our well-being is at stake, our money being used, our democratic bodies deciding. We shouldn't just have blind obedience to authority.

And other experts are among those making the strong fact-based cases against fluoridation -- even those who used to be proponents! But they looked at the facts and realized that the facts go against fluoridation, not for it.

So why hasn't the ADA engaged in the fact-based conversation, or adjusted their story to reflect it? People like to speculate about motives, some pretty dark. The truth is that we don't know. The most generous thing I can say is that they're working off outdated perceptions and have their egos invested in their stories. But it concerns me that they are so adamantly unwilling to engage in fact-based debates about the reality of putting this material in our shared water. I believe they are failing in their duty to society.

Unfortunately, we've seen this before in our culture, where institutions get fixed in incorrect beliefs that do harm for decades before they're forced to change their ways. Just look at DDT, PCBs, DES, etc. Many people suffer as a result of this failure to look beyond the hopes and claims to the harmful side of these technologies. We need to get better at learning our lessons from these experiences!

The bottom line is that we have a right to take care of our own health, and not be forced to be exposed to unproved toxics. Fluoride is not a nutrient. It is not required for health. It is not necessary for delivering water.

It is a medicine, and to work it needs to be delivered correctly to the right people in the right way. And we have a right not to be exposed against our will.

What would you think if someone proposed putting cholesterol drugs in the water -- and not even pharmaceutical grade? Wouldn't you object? We should not be putting drugs in our water, especially in scenarios such as this.

There's also a significant financial cost for the fluoridating system and maintenance. Why should the community pay for something that is proven to be harmful not helpful, and that many people do not want? Budgets are tight and we must spend our money wisely.

If our concern is the dental health of low-income people, there are other smarter actions we can take. For instance - how much fluoride toothpaste would this buy?

"I am appalled at the prospect of using water as a vehicle for drugs.
Fluoride is a corrosive poison that will produce serious effects on a
long range basis. Any attempt to use water this way is deplorable."

- Dr. Charles Gordon Heyd
Past President of the American Medical Association (www.nofluoride.com)


Here's some of the key information and links that support the information in my article.

For instance, see this review of studies -- "Fluoride toothpastes for preventing dental caries in children and adolescents." Marinho VC, Higgins JP, Sheiham A, Logan S., 2003, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.



Fluoride is a gas element that is not found as fluorine in the environment. We use it in combination with other elements. So --

* Fluoride in toothpaste -- "Sodium fluoride (NaF) is the most common source of fluoride, but stannous fluoride (SnF2), olaflur (an organic salt of fluoride), and sodium monofluorophosphate (Na2PO3F) are also used. Stannous fluoride has been shown to be more effective than sodium fluoride in reducing the incidence of dental caries[3] and controlling gingivitis.[4]"

Also notice that the medical field has spent time experimenting with fluoride compound they use, and refining that choice. It matters!


* Fluoride used for fluoridation -- "Cities all over the US purchase hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh pollution concentrate from Florida -- fluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6) -- to fluoridate water.

"Fluorosilicic acid is composed of tetrafluorosiliciate gas and other species of fluorine gases captured in pollution scrubbers and concentrated into a 23% solution during wet process phosphate fertilizer manufacture. ...

"Fluoridating drinking water with recovered pollution is a cost-effective means of disposing of toxic waste. The fluorosilicic acid would otherwise be classified as a hazardous toxic waste on the Superfund Priorities List of toxic substances that pose the most significant risk to human health and the greatest potential liability for manufacturers."


"The chemicals used to fluoridate water are not pharmaceutical grade. Instead, they largely come from the wet scrubbing systems of the phosphate fertilizer industry. These chemicals (90% of which are sodium fluorosilicate and fluorosilicic acid), are classified hazardous wastes contaminated with various impurities. Recent testing by the National Sanitation Foundation suggest that the levels of arsenic in these silicon fluorides are relatively high (up to 1.6 ppb after dilution into public water) and of potential concern (NSF 2000 and Wang 2000). Arsenic is a known human carcinogen for which there is no safe level. This one contaminant alone could be increasing cancer rates -- and unnecessarily so." www.fluoridealert.org/articles/50-reasons

"The silicon fluorides have not been tested comprehensively. The chemical usually tested in animal studies is pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride, not industrial grade fluorosilicic acid. Proponents claim that once the silicon fluorides have been diluted at the public water works they are completely dissociated to free fluoride ions and hydrated silica and thus there is no need to examine the toxicology of these compounds. However, while a study from the University of Michigan (Finney et al., 2006) showed complete dissociation at neutral pH, in acidic conditions (pH 3) there was a stable complex containing five fluoride ions. Thus the possibility arises that such a complex may be regenerated in the stomach where the pH lies between 1 and 2."

For more about fluoride use in industry, read this article. It discusses that it's a known toxic pollutant there, that it's challenging for them to discard it, and the history.
"Fluoride: Industry's Toxic Coup," by Joel Griffiths, Food & Water Journal, Summer 1998

For more information on this point, see:

"The Phosphate Fertilizer Industry: An Environmental Overview," By Michael Connett, Fluoride Action Network, May 2003, www.fluoridealert.org/articles/phosphate01

"Fluoride and the Phosphate Connection," by George C. Glasser, www.purewatergazette.net/fluorideandphosphate.htm


"When water fluoridation first began in the 1940s, dentists believed that fluoride's main benefit to teeth came from being swallowed during the tooth-forming years. This belief that fluoride's primary benefit was "systemic" and "pre-eruptive." … Although this "systemic" paradigm was the premise that launched water fluoridation and fluoride supplementation programs, it has now been discarded by the dental research community. Today, as noted by the following studies, the overwhelming consensus by dental researchers is that fluoride's primary effect is topical, not systemic... As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated in 1999 "fluoride prevents dental caries predominately after eruption of the tooth into the mouth, and its actions primarily are topical for both adults and children." The National Research Council has concurred, stating in 2006 that "the major anticaries benefit of fluoride is topical and not systemic."

"Fluoride & Tooth Decay: Topical Vs. Systemic Effect", By Michael Connett, Fluoride Action Network, June 2012. www.fluoridealert.org/studies/caries04

"The process of fluoride absorption works only by direct contact (topical treatment). Fluoride ions that are swallowed do not benefit the teeth.[126]" ^ Pizzo G.; Piscopo, M. R.; Pizzo, I.; Giuliana, G. (2007). "Community water fluoridation and caries prevention: a critical review". Clinical Oral Investigation 11 (3): 189-193. doi:10.1007/s00784-007-0111-6. PMID 17333303.

"Fluoride Is Not An Essential Nutrient," By Michael Connett, Fluoride Action Network, Aug. 2012. www.fluoridealert.org/studies/essential-nutrient


Just think about the fact that the labels of fluoridated toothpaste are legally required to contain a warning not to swallow it. That's because it is not healthy to consume!



"Dental fluorosis is a developmental disturbance of dental enamel caused by excessive exposure to high concentrations of fluoride during tooth development. The risk of fluoride overexposure occurs between the ages of 3 months and 8 years." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dental_fluorosis

Our use of fluoride in water is probably why 41% of American children had dental fluorosis in 2010, versus less than 10% in the 1940s.
Sources of Fluoride, Fluoride Action Network, www.fluoridealert.org/issues/sources

Although some experts minimize dental fluorisis as "just cosmetic," it can quite dramatically impact the look of teeth, permanently. It is not just a minor thing! See pictures here. http://www.google.com/search?q=dental+fluorosis&hl=en&client=safari&tbo=u&rls=en&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=L3UJUdyHOJHRigLzr4DgBw&ved=0CEYQsAQ&biw=1280&bih=829

If the whole point of fluoridating is to help dental health -- shouldn't it matter that it's hurting it!?


Plus, they don't mention that this reflects what's happening to all the bones in the body, which affirms that studies that show links between fluoridation and increased bone fractures -- including in children and the elderly.

That's because excess exposure to fluoride can compromise the integrity of bones, which diminishes bone strength and increases the risk of bone fractures. Hip fractures in the elderly can often lead to a loss of independence or shortened life.

"The costs and health effects of osteoporotic fractures in the US are enormous. The total cost of fracture care is now about $9 billion/year. It is estimated that about 350,000 hip fractures occur per year and the incidence is rising….

"Conclusion: All studies of fracture rates relative to long-term fluoridation exposure indicate a significant increase in fracture risk from fluoridation. The increased fracture risk due to fluoridation appears to range from 40-100%, depending on the age of the subjects studied. For women in their seventh decade who have been exposed to life-long fluoridation, the risk of hip fracture is approximately doubled. The risk increases with fluoride concentration at all levels over 0.11 ppm." - John R. Lee, M.D.

The full text of this article was published in the research journal, Fluoride (Vol. 26 No. 4, pages 274-277, 1993).

Fluoridation and Hip Fractures, by John R. Lee, M.D.


"A review of recent scientific literature reveals a consistent pattern of evidence - hip fractures, skeletal fluorosis, the effect of fluoride on bone structure, fluoride levels in bones and osteosarcomas - pointing to the existence of causal mechanisms by which fluoride damages bones…. [Fluoridation] proponents must come to grips with a serious ethical question: is it right to put fluoride in drinking water and to mislead the community that fluoride must be ingested, when any small benefit is due to the topical action of fluoride on teeth."

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 1997


* Fluoride accumulates in the body, "largely in calcifying tissues such as the bones and pineal gland, and steadily increases over a lifetime." (NRC 2006).


"July 24, 2012 -- Harvard University researchers' review of fluoride/brain studies concludes "our results support the possibility of adverse effects of fluoride exposures on children's neurodevelopment." It was published online July 20 in Environmental Health Perspectives, a US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' journal."



There is no margin of safety for several health effects. "No one can deny that high natural levels of fluoride damage health. Millions of people in India and China have had their health compromised by fluoride. The real question is whether there is an adequate margin of safety between the doses shown to cause harm in published studies and the total dose people receive consuming uncontrolled amounts of fluoridated water and non-water sources of fluoride. This margin of safety has to take into account the wide range of individual sensitivity expected in a large population (a safety factor of 10 is usually applied to the lowest level causing harm). Another safety factor is also needed to take into account the wide range of doses to which people are exposed. There is clearly no margin of safety for dental fluorosis (CDC, 2010) and based on the following studies nowhere near an adequate margin of safety for lowered IQ (Xiang 2003a,b; Ding 2011; Choi 2012); lowered thyroid function (Galletti & Joyet 1958; Bachinskii 1985; Lin 1991); bone fractures in children (Alarcon-Herrera 2001) or hip fractures in the elderly (Kurttio 1999; Li 2001). All of these harmful effects are discussed in the NRC (2006) review."



Do we really want to worry about drinking too much water? One of the key known reasons for dental caries is the consumption of soda, including by children, including in low income areas. Thus it seems a smart strategy would be to education the population about those impacts. Of course, then you'd suggest as an option that they drink -- water! Let's not make that harmful to teeth too!

Fluoride is also be absorbed through skin in the shower. Plus there have been incidents where too much fluoride has mistakenly been put in municipal water, causing dramatic illnesses and even deaths before it was caught. Fluoride is odorless and tasteless, so unlike chlorine for instance, you can't tell when you're being exposed.

See: Sources of Fluoride, Flouride Action Network www.fluoridealert.org/issues/sources

* No health agency in fluoridated countries is monitoring fluoride exposure or side effects in the population overall or the sensitive subsets. www.fluoridealert.org/articles/50-reasons



"Although fluoride advocates have claimed for years that the safety of fluoride in dentistry is exhaustively documented and "beyond debate," the Chairman of the National Research Council's (NRC) comprehensive fluoride review, Dr. John Doull, recently stated that: "when we looked at the studies that have been done, we found that many of these questions are unsettled and we have much less information than we should, considering how long this [fluoridation] has been going on. I think that's why fluoridation is still being challenged so many years after it began."

"In this section of the website, we provide overviews of the scientific and medical research that implicates fluoride exposure as a cause or contributor to various chronic health ailments."


Fluoride is more toxic than lead, is only slightly less toxic than arsenic.
Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products, 5th Edition, 1984, pp. ll4, ll -112, ll-138, ll-129)


This article walks through the studies, both those used by proponents and those that disprove them.
"Fluoride: A Statement of Concern," by Paul Connett, Ph.D, Waste Not #459, January 2000



The vast majority of western Europe has rejected water fluoridation. "Yet, according to comprehensive data from the World Health Organization, their tooth decay rates are just as low, and, in fact, often lower than the tooth decay rates in the US."

Also, "comprehensive data from the World Health Organization reveals that there is no discernible difference in tooth decay between the minority of western nations that fluoridate water, and the majority that do not. In fact, the tooth decay rates in many non-fluoridated countries are now lower than the tooth decay rates in fluoridated ones."


Many scientists, doctors, and dentists oppose fluoridation. They've looked beyond the claims to the actual studies and facts. As of January 2012, over 4,000 professionals have signed a statement calling for an end to water fluoridation worldwide.


In the United States, the union representing EPA professionals (NTEU-280) has called for a moratorium on fluoridation of America's drinking water. You can read their reasons, including many of the items above, at www.nteu280.org/Issues/Fluoride/flouridestatement.htm


"Civil Rights Leaders Call for Halt to Water Fluoridation," PRNewswire-USNewswire, NEW YORK, April 14, 2011, http://envirocentersoco.org/enviroupdates/?p=533


www.fluoridealert.org/articles/fluoride-facts (See #9)
www.fluoridealert.org/issues/ej (Environmental Justice)



According to the NTEU-280, 99.97% of fluoridated water is released directly into the water at around 1ppm, 10 times Canada's water quality protection guideline of 0.12ppm.

"The problems associated with fluoride pollution are significant in Oregon and the entire Columbia River basin. Excess fluoride in Northwest water negatively impacts salmon and other aquatic species. Fluoride does not break down and therefore accumulates in the environment.

"While it would be valuable to strengthen regulation of fluoride emitted into the environment from all sources, the problem of additional fluoride pollution can at least be partially addressed through a simple solution that costs nothing and can be implemented immediately: "just say no" to efforts to add fluoride compounds, plus the host of other toxic contaminants that come with them, to our drinking water."



You can also read and forward Fluoride Action Network's "10 facts about fluoride," which offers more details and citations on these points.

Also see:

* Fluoride Action Network ("Broadening Public Awareness on Fluoride") www.fluoridealert.org

* NoFluoride.com ("Citizens for Safe Drinking Water") www.nofluoride.com



I've created an easy actions page, focused on Sonoma County, for you to read and share. www.healthyworld.org/StopSCFAction.html

For folks outside of Sonoma County, here's a link where you can see the status of fluoridation in your state and town -- including towns that have rejected it -- as well as pollution sources of fluoride.


I'm delighted to offer you my Ask EcoGirl booklets, "Healthier Housecleaning" and "Detoxing Your Life." These unique, handy, and cheerful resources bring together key information you need to create a healthier home for your family and the planet. They make a great gift, and quantity discounts and wholesale prices are available. Plus all sales support my eco-healing community work. Tell a friend! Find out more at www.askecogirl.info/booklets.html.

For more information on this and related eco-topics, see my other Ask EcoGirl columns.


Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter, which gently educates readers about toxics and alternatives. For more information about my work for the planet, see www.patriciadines.info

Sign up for my low-volume writing announcement list (1-3 emails a month), to get emails when my new print articles are published, at www.patriciadines.info/EList.

Connect via Facebook, to show your support for my work, and get inspiring and useful eco-info in your Newsfeed www.facebook.com/AskEcoGirl.

Explore and sign up for my blog at www.patriciadines.info/LTEblog.

I hope that you find this information useful. I welcome your throughts and feedback! (You can email me at info [at] askecogirl.info.)

Editors: Please contact me if you'd like to publish any of these articles in your periodical, or discuss an article that I might write for you.

This entire website is (c) Patricia Dines, 1998-2013. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 4/9/13