Fluoride frequently asked questions, Queensland Health
Dr. Michael Foley – Principal Dentist
Statement: Q) What is fluoride? A) Fluoride is a naturally occurring compound found in water, plants, rocks, soil, air and most foods.
Response: “Natural does not necessarily mean good. Arsenic, like fluoride, leaches naturally from rocks into groundwater, but no one suggests topping that up. Besides, there is nothing “natural” about the fluoridating chemicals, as they are obtained largely from the wet scrubbers of the phosphate fertilizer industry. The chemicals used in most fluoridation programs are either hexafluorosilicic acid or its sodium salt, and those silicon fluorides do not occur in nature” (1).
Statement: Q) Where does it come from? A) The fluoride used for water fluoridation can be extracted at the same time as other minerals, such as phosphates from ground rocks. The co-production of natural fluoride through an already established mining process is an efficient use of our natural resources.
Response: Queensland Health is obviously reading from the same playbook as its Victorian equivalent. Connett, Beck & Micklem (2010) expose this slick pro-fluoridation tactic: “Because proponents of fluoridation are worried about the public’s perception of adding a hazardous industrial waste to the public water supply, some of them have gone to tortuous lengths in an attempt to persuade citizens that the fluoridating chemicals are not captured hazardous waste products. Here is an example of some extraordinary spin from a Q&A pamphlet distributed by the Department of Human Services in Victoria, Australia, in 2009: “Does fluoride come from the fertiliser industry? Scrubbers can also be used to reduce atmospheric pollution by gases, leading some people to conclude that because a scrubber is used to extract fluoride from rocks, fluoride must be a pollutant, but this is not the case. Fluoride is not a waste product of the fertiliser manufacturing process, but rather, a co-product. If fluoride is not actively collected during the refining process for water fluoridation purposes, it remains in the phosphate fertiliser. However, due to the widespread practice of water fluoridation in Australia, fluoride is commonly extracted during the refining process.” Maybe this “health” agency is happier using the word “co-product” rather than “hazardous by-product,” but the simple truth, as indicated previously, is that the captured gases (hydrogen fluoride and silicon fluoride) did enormous damage to crops and cattle surrounding phosphate fertilizer plants for about a hundred years before the industry was forced to put on wet scrubbers to capture those “co-products.” Substances that cause damage to plants, animals, or humans are called pollutants. It is also not true, as this fluoridation- promoting health agency claims, that the captured gases would magically return to the phosphate fertilizer if they were not scrubbed from the air emissions. These claims are nonsense” (2).
Statement: Q) Why is fluoride added to the water? A) While water supplies naturally contain some level of fluoride, there is not always sufficient fluoride to prevent tooth decay, especially when the water source comes from above the ground.
Response: When the authors of the York Review (2000) examined the evidence for this assumption, they reported, “Given the level of interest surrounding the issue of public water fluoridation, it is surprising to find that little high quality research has been undertaken” (3). In 2003, they reiterated, “We were unable to discover any reliable good-quality evidence in the fluoridation literature world-wide” (4). Queensland Health prefers not to mention such statements, as they are not good for public relations.
Statement: Q) What benefits could water fluoridation have for me and my family? A) Water fluoridation helps to protect adults and children from tooth decay. It provides additional protection to fluoridated toothpaste. Preventing tooth decay can save your family the pain and discomfort of toothache and the expense required to treat the disease.
Response: European families get along just fine without fluoridated water, so the notion that Australian families must have it, is erroneous – and this is supported by the data. In fact, as early as 1986 it was reported that, “Large temporal reductions in tooth decay, which cannot be attributed to fluoridation, have been observed in both unfluoridated and fluoridated areas of at least eight developed countries over the past thirty years. It is now time for a scientific re-examination of the alleged enormous benefits of fluoridation” (5). As reported in 2007 in the British Medical Journal, “Although the prevalence of caries varies between countries, levels everywhere have fallen greatly in the past three decades, and national rates of caries are now universally low. This trend has occurred regardless of the concentration of fluoride in water or the use of fluoridated salt, and it probably reflects use of fluoridated toothpastes and other factors, including perhaps aspects of nutrition” (6). In other words, for a nation to achieve low tooth decay rates, artificially fluoridated water is not necessary. For Queensland Health to state or imply otherwise, constitutes false advertising.
Statement: Q) Is water fluoridation poisonous? A) No, water fluoridation is not poisonous. Anything can be dangerous at very high levels, but fluoride at less than 1 part per million is extremely safe.
Response: This is a deliberate ploy to confuse concentration and dose (7) (8), whilst avoiding the issue of margin of safety (9) (10). Furthermore, Queensland Health does not consider water fluoridation in relation to total fluoride exposure/daily dose from all sources (11) (12).
Statement: Q) Does water fluoridation cause cancer or bone damage? A) No, water fluoridation is not harmful, and numerous studies have found it does not cause cancer, osteoporosis, bone fractures or any other disease. Rates of these diseases in fluoridated states are no higher than in Queensland.
Response: As for osteosarcoma, “Some studies show an increase in osteosarcoma (a rare but frequently fatal bone cancer) among young men in fluoridated communities, and others do not. Even though the study results are mixed, a study by Elise Bassin from Harvard, with the most robust methodology to date, has shown a positive relationship between exposure to fluoride in the sixth, seventh, and eighth years of age and a fivefold to sevenfold increased risk of contracting osteosarcoma in young men by the age of twenty” (13). As for other potential impacts, numerous health issues have not been resolved. For instance, the York Review team said, “we felt that not enough was known because the quality of the evidence was poor” (4), whilst in 2006 the US National Research Council discovered numerous health research gaps that require serious investigation (14). According to one of the expert Panelists for the 2006 NRC Report, “water fluoridation at 0.7 mg/L is not adequate to protect against known or anticipated adverse effects and does not allow an adequate margin of safety to protect young children, people with high water consumption, people with kidney disease (resulting in reduced excretion of fluoride), and other potentially sensitive population subgroups. In addition to the “known” adverse health effects of dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, and increased risk of bone fracture, “anticipated” adverse health effects from fluoride exposure or community water fluoridation include (but are not limited to) carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, endocrine effects, increased blood lead levels, and hypersensitivity (reduced tolerance) to fluoride. These effects are not as well studied as the dental and skeletal effects, which should indicate that a greater margin of safety is necessary to ensure protection of the population” (15). This is a lot of risk for “at best questionable” benefit (16); saving less than a single tooth surface, if any at all (17).
Statement: Q) Does water fluoridation cause allergic reactions? A) No, water fluoridation has not been proven to cause any allergic reactions. Reviews by peak health bodies around the world have found no connection between water fluoridation and allergies, hypersensitivity or other immunological effects. Even sea water contains more fluoride than the levels in fluoridated water.
Response: See: (18) (19) (20) (21).
Statement: Q) Does water fluoridation affect the taste or smell of water? A) No, fluoride does not affect the taste or smell of water.
Response: What an idiotic and irrelevant point (public relations 101!). Many poisons are tasteless and odorless – but it doesn’t necessarily make them safe! In fact, it makes them even more dangerous, as the consumer does not realise they are being poisoned.
Statement: Q) Does water fluoridation have any side effects? A) Dental fluorosis or mottling of the teeth can occur if young children get too much fluoride when their adult teeth are forming. This condition affects only a small proportion of children and is associated with excess consumption of fluoride from all sources, especially toothpaste or fluoride supplements. Most fluorosis is mild and only detectable by a dentist. The rare form of severe fluorosis causes pitting of the tooth enamel, however this is usually caused by children eating toothpaste, taking too much fluoride supplements or a combination of both.
Response: “Dental Fluorosis caused by water fluoridation is irreversible, disfiguring, psychologically damaging and costly to repair. In essence, it is medical assault on children” (22); “The risk of dental ﬂuorosis increases as ﬂuoride concentration of water exceeds 0.3 parts per million” (16). “Consider the finding that exposure to fluoride in water and in toothpaste leads to dental fluorosis. Left as a matter of a “human health effect” it is too easy for officials to miss the point and describe the effect as a “cosmetic” or “aesthetic”. Pursued at the biochemical level, however, it raises a different level of concern. From animal studies it has been demonstrated that dental fluorosis is caused by fluoride inhibiting enzymes in the growing tooth cell responsible for laying down the enamel (DenBesten, 1999). The last stage in this process involves enzymes called proteases, which chew up the protein remaining between the mineral prisms, which form the enamel. If this protein is not completely removed, it leads to small opaque patches on the enamel. It is well known from biochemical studies that fluoride inhibits enzymes in test tubes, which is the reason why a number of Nobel Prize winners (e.g Dr. James Sumner, the world’s leading enzyme chemist in his time) are among those who have expressed their reservations about fluoridating water. Dental fluorosis is thus an indication that fluoride even at 1 ppm in water can inhibit enzymes in the body. In a way, it is extremely lucky that fluoride inhibits these particular enzymes because the effect is visible. Thus we have a visible warning signal that something is happening. The key question then becomes (or should become): What other enzymes is fluoride inhibiting in the body that we can’t see?… it is misleading to describe dental fluorosis as a “cosmetic” or “aesthetic” effect. These are not scientific terms but public relations terms. The simple scientific truth of the matter is that when dental fluorosis has occurred it means that fluoride has impacted the body systemically. The fluoride has moved from the water through the stomach membranes into the plasma, circulated the body and arrived inside the tooth. In the growing tooth cells it has reached a concentration such that it has inhibited the enzymes involved in laying down the enamel. Pam DenBeston’s (1999) work indicates that the enzymes involved are the ones which remove the last bit of protein from between the mineral prisms. Thus, instead of laying down a nice smooth enamel, the enamel has little patches in it… Now that it is recognized that dental fluorosis is occurring with increasing frequency and severity, we have to ask what other enzymes are being inhibited in the body. What enzymes are affected in the bones, in the other calcifying tissues and in the other soft tissues?” (23). In a nutshell, “it is illogical to assume that tooth enamel is the only tissue affected by low daily doses of fluoride ingestion” (24).
Statement: Q) Is it possible for my family to drink too much fluoridated water? A) Fluoridated water contains less than one part per million of fluoride. The level is set lower in Queensland than other areas of Australia because we need to drink more water due to our hotter climate. Because such a small amount of fluoride is used to top up natural levels, large amounts of water can be safely consumed.
Response: According to Thiessen, “0.7 mg/L is not adequate to protect against known or anticipated adverse effects and does not allow an adequate margin of safety to protect young children, people with high water consumption, people with kidney disease (resulting in reduced excretion of fluoride), and other potentially sensitive population subgroups” (15).
Statement: Q) Is it fair to make everybody drink fluoridated water? Why don’t people who want fluoride take fluoride tablets? A) One of the advantages of water fluoridation is it allows all members of the community to benefit from the protective effects of fluoride, without cost or effort. Fluoride supplements do not provide the same benefit as water fluoridation.
Response: Fluoridation is not ethical, and is a poor medical practice (25) (26) (27).
Statement: Q) What if I really don’t want it? A) Those who choose not to benefit from water fluoridation can still choose other drinking water sources (e.g. bottled water, reverse osmosis filtered water).
Response: “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 removal equipment. 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” (28).
Statement: Q) Will the Government be offering rebates for water filters? A) The Government will not be subsidising reverse osmosis water filters for those who choose not to access fluoridated water. Reverse osmosis systems cost around $300.00 fully installed and are available from water filter retailers and selected hardware stores.
Response: “It’s ridiculous to think that people who need to escape fluoride can go and organise their own water supply. We all pay our water rates for a proper clean water supply, and in fluoridated towns, we’re not getting it” (29).
(1) A Response to Pro-Fluoridation Claims, Claim #2 [also see: Fluoridation Chemicals]
(2) The Case Against Fluoride, p. 18 [also see: Fluoridation Chemicals]
(3) York Review – Executive Summary, Conclusions
(4) What the ‘York Review’ on the Fluoridation of Drinking Water Really Found
(5) The Mystery of Declining Tooth Decay
(6) Adding Fluoride to Water Supplies [also see: Tooth Decay in F vs. NF Countries]
(7) So small, can’t possibly hurt you?
(8) Dose vs concentration explained
(9) Margin of safety explained, 2011
(10) Margin of safety explained, 2008
(11) Sources of fluoride
(12) Measures of exposure
(13) A Response to Pro-Fluoridation Claims, Claim #28 [also see: Bone Cancer Files; New Study Fails to Refute Fluoride-Osteosarcoma Link]
(14) NRC’s findings [also see: Health Effects Database]
(15) General Comments on Fluoridation, p. 5
(16) Ethics of Artificial Water Fluoridation in Australia, p. 6
(17) What about the so-called ‘benefits’?
(18) Bitter Tears, Deaf Ears – In Defense of Maz
(19) Fluoride Fatigue – Review
(20) Allergy and Hypersensitivity to Fluoride
(21) Fluoride Hypersensitivity Testing
(22) Dental Fluorosis: Permanent Tooth Scarring Caused by Fluoridation
(23) A Critique of the York Review 2000, 2.8, 3.3.2-3.3.4 [also see: Dr. Paul Connett at Sedgwick County Commission, October 31st, 2012]
(24) Why I am Now Officially Opposed to Adding Fluoride to Drinking Water [also watch: this video; and consult: this database]
(25) Mildura presentation, 2011
(26) Quad Cities presentation, 2013
(27) Water fluoridation and medical ethics – overview
(28) The Absurdities of Water Fluoridation
(29) David McRae, speaking in Fire Water