What are fluoride’s potential effects on the brain?

Pro-fluoridationists will tell you there is no possible harm you need to worry about when in comes to fluoride’s impact on the brain. Anti-fluoridationists will tell you that fluoride is a clear and present danger to the brain. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.

Let’s start with the 2006 NRC Report. According to the authors:

“On the basis of information largely derived from histological, chemical, and molecular studies, it is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain and the body by direct and indirect means” [1].

The Fluoride Action Network has produced a very useful database for all the relevant information on this topic. We suggest taking a look [2].

Basically, it all comes down to ‘margin of safety’ [3]. Mullenix also gives an interesting biochemical overview, for those interested in learning more [4].

[1] Neurochemical and Biochemical Changes, NRC
[2] Brain effects, FAN
[3] There is no adequate margin of safety, FAN
[4] The toxicity of water fluoridation, IAOMT


Is fluoride an endocrine disruptor?

“Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife” [1]. According to a 2006 report by the National Research Council, fluoride is an endocrine disruptor:

“Evidence of several types indicates that fluoride affects normal endocrine function or response; the effects of the fluoride-induced changes vary in degree and kind in different individuals. Fluoride is therefore an endocrine disruptor in the broad sense of altering normal endocrine function or response, although probably not in the sense of mimicking a normal hormone. The mechanisms of action remain to be worked out and appear to include both direct and indirect mechanisms, for example, direct stimulation or inhibition of hormone secretion by interference with second messenger function, indirect stimulation or inhibition of hormone secretion by effects on things such as calcium balance, and inhibition of peripheral enzymes that are necessary for activation of the normal hormone” [2].

“The endocrine system is a collection of glands in the body that secrete hormones–chemical signals that regulate the function of numerous cells and organs in the body” [3]. Given the wide ranges and overall increases in fluoride exposures following artificial fluoridation programs [4], the important issue of margin of safety naturally arises [5].

[1] National Institutes of Health, Endocrine Disruptors.
[2] National Research Council, Effects on the Endocrine System – Fluoride.
[3] FAN, Fluoride & Endocrine System.
[4] AFAM, Dose vs. Concentration.
[5] Margin of Safety, Overview.


What is the difference between dose and concentration?

Concentration is the amount of fluoride in fluoridated drinking water (e.g. 1 mg/L). Dose depends on how much water a person drinks [1]. In other words, if you drink 5 litres of water that contains 1 milligram per litre of fluoride concentration, you have just consumed a dose of 5 milligrams of fluoride.

But it isn’t so simple. You most likely will have received fluoride from a variety of other sources [2], which will have combined to increase your total dose. So you really don’t know how much fluoride you actually received as a total dose. And what about your long-term doses of fluoride, over months and years?

The reason it is so difficult to determine your total dose is because most water supplies are artificially fluoridated, and this literally gets into virtually everything:

“The major dietary source of fluoride for most people in the United States is fluoridated municipal (community) drinking water, including water consumed directly, food and beverages prepared at home or in restaurants from municipal drinking water, and commercial beverages and processed foods originating from fluoridated municipalities” [3].

“The single most important contributor to fluoride exposures (approaching 50% or more) is fluoridated water and other beverages and foods prepared or manufactured with fluoridated water” [4].

Therefore, there is no doubt that when authorities fluoridate your water supply, with a certain concentration of fluoride in drinking water, they are vastly increasing your total exposure to fluoride and therefore your overall doses of fluoride [5].

[1] Concentration vs dose, Overview
[2] Sources of fluoride, FAN
[3] Measures of Exposure, NRC
[4] Measures of Exposure, NRC
[5] Dose vs. Concentration: Clearing up the Misconceptions, Critiquing Fluoridation


What is the difference between water fluoridation and water treatment?

Water treatment is the process by which public drinking water is treated to make it safe to drink. The most common example is water chlorination, which kills certain bacteria and other microbes that may harm people [1].

Water fluoridation, on the other hand, does not treat the water itself. Rather, fluoridation uses the water supply to treat people. This is a fundamental and radical difference [2], which raises many ethical objections [3] and violates numerous principles of consent [4].

Opponents of fluoridation argue that the public water supply is not an appropriate vehicle for delivering mass treatment to the population. Consent cannot be obtained from all individuals, dose cannot be controlled, and proper biomonitoring is hugely problematic [5-6].

[1] Wikipedia, Water chlorination.
[2] Fluoridation as a practice, Overview.
[3] Fluoridation and ethics, Overview.
[4] Final Nails in the Ethical Coffin of Water Fluoridation, Consent principles.
[5] Measures of Exposure, NRC
[6] Sources of fluoride, FAN

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What about the biochemistry of fluoride?

Fluoride has the potential for very negative biochemical effects [1]. As noted by Barbier et al. (2010):

“Until the 1990s, the toxicity of fluoride was largely ignored due to its “good reputation” for preventing caries via topical application and in dental toothpastes. However, in the last decade, interest in its undesirable effects has resurfaced due to the awareness that this element interacts with cellular systems even at low doses. In recent years, several investigations demonstrated that fluoride can induce oxidative stress and modulate intracellular redox homeostasis, lipid peroxidation and protein carbonyl content, as well as alter gene expression and cause apoptosis. Genes modulated by fluoride include those related to the stress response, metabolic enzymes, the cell cycle, cell-cell communications and signal transduction” [2].

The NRC’s 2006 review offers further reading on the subject [3], whilst Mullenix (2009) provides a detailed toxicological overview [4].

[1] Fluoride and Biochemistry, FAN
[2] Molecular mechanisms of fluoride toxicity, Chem Biol Interact
[3] A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards, Pharmacokinetics of Fluoride
[4] The Toxicity of Water Fluoridation, IAOMT

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Where do fluoridation chemicals come from?

Fluoridation chemicals are sourced primarily from the phosphate fertiliser industry [1-2].

It is well established that “inorganic fluorides are a major by-product of the phosphate fertiliser industry” [3].

[1] FAN, Fluoridation Chemicals
[2] Professional Perspectives, Fluoride Chemicals
[3] Canadian Water Quality Guidelines: Inorganic Fluorides, Abstract


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