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Fluoride in the Water: Any Links to Autoimmune Disease?

The issue of fluoridation and whether it should be a mandated additive to our public water system is decades old.  Its origins are rooted, believe it or not, in post-war fear of a communist takeover, ostensibly enabled by poisoning the American water supply.  While accepted as a great public health benefit by the majority of scientists and lay people, it has remained, for one reason or another, a somewhat contentious – if marginal – matter for some.

The majority of dentists and physicians, relying on overwhelming scientific evidence, recommend adding fluoride to our water, as a means of maintaining good dental hygiene.  In conjunction with topical application of fluoride via pastes and rinses, it has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of dental cavities within communities.  This recommendation is supported by plentiful studies and clinical experience, all indicating a clear benefit with minimal to no risk of serious adverse effects.

However, there is a subset of patients and healthcare workers, who do believe that adding fluoride to the water supply of the general public not only presents ethical concerns, but also potentially grave health consequences for those who consume too much.  While this group does offer some science to support their theory, it has generally been accepted that the studies and evidence have been misinterpreted or misapplied to make the argument fit.  Most other corroboration is anecdotal, from what seems like a very frustrated patient population with a wide range of problems for which they seek explanations.

What are the studies that suggest a link between fluoride and autoimmune disease or other health issues?

Other than one study on rats, there are no available studies suggesting a link between fluoride and autoimmune disease in human beings, including thyroid disease.  There is a bit of questionable evidence demonstrating a possible cancer association, though as noted above, the quality of this evidence is lacking as the majority of studies do not indicate an association.  Also, there is a possibility that excess fluoride in the blood vessels may contribute to coronary artery disease, though much more research is needed.

The vast majority of online sources citing some other purported negative health effects from fluoride are advocacy and other non-scientific groups, with little or no supporting evidence.  Some of these include NoFluoride.com and FluorideDebate.com.  Many such sites appear organized by one of two parties: patients or family members hoping to find the cause of their health issues, and/or conspiracy theorists with a variety of reasons and explanations for their concerns.

What is often confusing is that many such sites use the term “fluoride poisoning” – which is a real medical emergency requiring treatment – to indicate the possible effects of long-term exposure via water.   While there is plenty of research describing the mechanism and effects of fluoride poisoning, none of it applies to the chronic water-based scenario.

What are the studies that refute a link between fluoride and autoimmune disease or other health issues?

There have been a number of studies and reviews performed to examine the possible connection between excessive fluoride intake and health problems, with virtually none demonstrating a positive correlation, and most suggesting no link between the two.  Most professional organizations, basing their decisions on such research, still recommend water fluoridation as a means of improving dental health.  Otherwise, it is difficult to formulate research that seeks to prove the absence of something, but without evidence to the contrary, it is hard to make a case for proven ill effects of fluoride, based on what we know at this point in time.

What is the average amount of fluoride in the water supplies of most cities?

This is a tougher question to answer than one might think.  The actual amount at any given moment may vary slightly, but the United States Public Health Service has established a range of 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L as both safe and effective for preventing tooth decay, without presenting significant risk of any kind.  The World Health Organization, on the other hand, has set a maximum threshold of 1.5 mg/L, with a suggested range of 0.5 to 1.0 mg/L.  This is still far lower than is considered dangerous in terms of physical ingestion or absorption.  These levels are set to balance the benefit of preventing tooth decay with the possibility of dental fluorosis, and not because they are anywhere near the amounts necessary for any known ill effects.  In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency has set a limit of 4.0 mg/L in all public drinking water, to ensure protection from severe skeletal fluorosis that may occur with prolonged intake at levels above this cutoff.

Do most cities in the US have fluoride in the water supply?

Over two-thirds of the cities and municipalities in the United States have fluoride added to their drinking water.  Since it is not regulated on a federal level, there are certain areas that have opted against fluoridation.

Is fluoride at high levels unsafe?

According to current available evidence, the only real concern with unintentional (i.e., via water, and not from swallowing tons of toothpaste or other fluoride-containing substances) high fluoride intake is fluorosis of the teeth.  This is seen in a small percentage of patients, who present with discoloration of the teeth and sometimes pitting enamel.  However, this is mainly an aesthetic concern, and usually disappears on its own after puberty.  At normal water levels, fluoride is otherwise safe to consume.  Skeletal fluorosis, which occurs rarely, may happen as the result of chronic exposure to very high amounts of fluoride.  It involves changes to bone structure that may or may not present a problem.

Acute fluoride toxicity/poisoning does present health concerns, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal and systemic symptoms.  But this is almost always the result of ingestion of a massive amount of fluoride at one time, whether intentionally or accidentally, and would not occur from consuming even large amounts of water from community sources.  Fluoride, like many substances we take into our bodies, is toxic at incredibly high levels, but one could never achieve these levels from simple water consumption.

Questions for your doctor:

  • What are your thoughts and feelings about water fluoridation?
  • Are there other concerns with fluoridation besides dental fluorosis?
  • Should I be using a water filter at home to remove some/all fluoride?
  • What percentage of your patients have had issues caused by excessive fluoride?
  • What about the fact that fluoride prevents some enzymes in your body from working?  Isn’t it a poison?

 

About the Author
Dr. Rothbard is a professional medical writer and consultant based in New York City, specializing in medical education articles targeted at a variety of audiences, from children through clinicians.  After leaving medicine, he worked as a biology and medical science educator for several years, before deciding to pursue writing full-time.  He may be reached at [email protected].

 

This post contains opinions of the author.  AutoimmuneMom.com is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances.  Camino Real Ventures, Inc., the company that makes AutoimmuneMom.com available to you, does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website.  Your use of the website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

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Comments

  1. The good doctor needs to start reading more recent scientific and medical studies. Here are a few proving that fluoride intensifies allergic reactions and worsens inflammations, i.e. Celiac and Crohn’s diseases influenced by Peyer’s patches.

    Fluoride makes allergies worse, rats (1990): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1707853 
    Fluoride makes allergies worse, in vitro (1999): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9892783
    Peyer’s Patches, Celiac disease (2005):: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16403601
    Peyer’s Patches, Celiac disease (2010): http://www.hindawi.com/journals/iji/2010/823710/

  2. And here are a few studies from the past 12 months proving that “optimally” fluoridated water harms kidney and brains, and really doesn’t do much good for the teeth.

    2014 in Toxicology. Effect of water fluoridation on the development of medial vascular calcification in uremic rats. (“Optimal levels” worsen kidney function): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24561004

    2015 in Neurotoxicology and Teratology. Association of lifetime exposure to fluoride and cognitive functions in Chinese children: A pilot study. (Children with visible dental fluorosis perform less well on memory tasks, correlating with the degree of severity of their fluorosis. One of a series of human and animal studies with the same consistent findings.):
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25446012
    http://braindrain.dk/2014/12/mottled-fluoride-debate/

    2015 in Toxicological Sciences. Modifying Effect of COMT Gene Polymorphism and a Predictive Role for Proteomics Analysis….(Gene predicts fluoride sensitivity) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25556215

    2014 in Physiology and Behavior. Fluoride exposure during development affects both cognition and emotion in mice. (Measurable behavioral changes): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24184405

    2014 in International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. A new perspective on metals and other contaminants in fluoridation chemicals. (All samples of fluoride are contaminated with aluminum, plus other contaminants like arsenic, lead and barium);
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24999851
    http://momsagainstfluoridation.org/sites/default/files/Mullenix%202014-2-2.pdf

    2014 in Scientific World Journal. Water Fluoridation: A Critical Review of the Physiological Effects of Ingested Fluoride as a Public Health Intervention. (Health risks and cost don’t justify minimal and questionable dental benefit.): http://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2014/293019/

  3. The best all in one review of the evidence of HARM to susceptible populations is the affidavit included in the 2015 lawsuit filed in Ontario, Canada by NAS Scientist, Dr. Kathleen Thiessen, who sat on two National Research Councils examining the toxicity of fluoride.
    http://fluoridealert.org/wp-content/uploads/peel.june2014.pdf

    Expert on Risk Assessment: “The available data, responsibly interpreted, indicate little or no beneficial effect of water fluoridation on oral health.”  – Dr. Kathleen Thiessen, 2006 National Research Council Scientist (2011)

  4. SAHMof2 says:

    I’ve come up on this article and many others in searching for some answers to my husbands (37 years of age) recent health issues. Fluoride is where I”ve chosen to begin. Our aquifer is at 200 feet at tests at 2.6 mg/L for flouride levels. This is more than double the recommended guidelines imposed by Health Canada. My husband and I do not use the RO system but our children do in order to attempt to avoid flourosis of their teeth (which has failed). After numerous tests, scans, taps and biopsies of his brain tissue (dura matter) they have concluded he has a form of autoimmune disorder which has no name or matching symptomology, nor a reason for the cause of his decline. He is currently being treated with high doses of steroid and is feeling better as well the progression of his symptoms had ceased. I need for this to NOT happen again and am thus beginning my search for answers.

    • Katie Cleary says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s health issues and hope that you can find some answers. Fluoride is such a a controversial issue as you can tell from this post. I know many people who swear that onset their autoimmune disease, and it’s tough that it is so conditional upon the water you drank as a kid (which would be untestable now, decades later – who knows what’s changed with how it’s been treated since we were young), where you grew up, and where you are living now/sourcing your water now. Keep us posted on what you find and we can add follow-up research posts.

      Thanks again,
      Katie
      founder, AutoimmuneMom.com

    • Pamela Johnson says:

      I could not determine if your husband is still receiving fluoridated water or not. If not, get him back on water free of fluoride. It does not mean that he has to stop his steroids or other medical procedures. However, it may be that one day he can get off the steroids; they are not indicated for long term use. You are on the right track in your search. Get him off fluoride permanently.

  5. Pamela Johnson says:

    Just because no studies can be found linking fluoride with disease does not mean that this link does not exist. We can improve our lives in many ways in the absence of studies. I recently was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I did not go to the internet to search for studies. I immediately quit drinking tap water (with fluoride) and switched to water not containing the poison. Six weeks later, My lab results improved enormously, removing the necessity of being placed on thyroid medication. Needless to say, I am thrilled.

  6. Pamela Johnson says:

    When I first came across this article, I was puzzled by the author’s antagonistic attitude on the issue of fluoride in the water. He is a medical doctor and supposedly has at least above average intelligence. But then I saw his MS degree in Environment. Don’t be fooled, folks. The Environment motive has an agenda, and that agenda is to depopulate the earth.

    Now, is that a bad agenda? No, not at all; and on this point I agree with him. I would like to see people limit their family size to one child, or better yet, adopt. Where I disagree with him and his environmental movement is the way it is being done. The Club of Rome, Counsel on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and other “New World Order” movements will not stop at anything to reduce the population–even if that means by introducing disease in any form.

    Some in the environment movement have good intentions, and that is to save Mother Earth. Here again, the good doctor and I again agree. But be wary of people behind the “Mother Earth” movement. Yes, most are probably good people, but some are insidiously evil and will gladly support the use of fluoride in our water system to inflict disease and death. I would be interested in knowing who issues Dr. Rothbard’s check. I suspect it is a disinformation chorus of murderers who think that the world’s average citizen is stupid and unable to think for himself.

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