How does fluoride affect us?
Everyone drinks water, most of us without even thinking about it. We don’t worry about what chemicals are added to it and how those may affect us. You might not know that fluoride is added to our drinking water! Most of us don’t worry about its presence or whether or not it has any effect on us. While optimal levels of fluoride (.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water) are effectively used to prevent tooth decay and cavities, research has shown that when levels are left unchecked, this is something that should worry us. (ADA, 2016)
Should everyone be concerned?
Fluoride has not shown to be harmful when taken in low dosages. While many people believe that any amount of fluoride may be bad for your health, research has shown that it is not bad in moderation. Most industrialized places regulate the fluoride level in drinking water, usually only containing 1 mg/L, which is just about the optimum amount of fluoride in water to prevent tooth decay. This may offer some relief to us, considering that fluoride levels in our drinking water are in fact regulated; however, it does raise some concern for underdeveloped countries where the fluoride levels are not. Most studies were done in China, for this very reason. Since fluoride levels are not regulated there, they have different ranges of levels throughout the whole country, making it easy to test and compare people that come from different areas and have varying levels of fluoride in their drinking water. The high levels of fluoride in their groundwater comes from contamination by the burning of coal, and this can affect everyone there.
Can it affect pregnancies?
Research suggests that fluoride can affect pregnancies (Jing Li, 2004). It shows that there is some correlation between fluoride intake levels of soon-to-be mothers and the neurodevelopment of their unborn babies. (Jing Li, 2004).
Studies on this were (again) done in China, because of the highly irregular levels of fluoride that are found throughout the country. In Effects of High Fluoride Level on Neonatal Neurobehavioral Development researchers took 91 newborn babies that were delivered in different hospitals throughout the country. They were then divided into two different groups; the high-fluoride and the control group, which was based on the fluoride level in the drinking water of the mothers. The ones in the high fluoride group were less developed than those in the control group. They lagged from the control group in various capabilities such as visual and auditory reactions. This study concluded that there was a high risk in taking excessive amounts of fluoride while pregnant. (Jing Li, 2004). Also, since children are in a critical stage of development they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of this chemical as well.
How does it affect children?
Fluoride has been shown to cause deficiencies in the neurodevelopment of children. (Anna L. Choi, 2012). Researchers have tried to determine whether or not this is true for a long time. They have conducted many studies and still, continue to research this topic today.
In Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: a systematic review and meta-analysis researchers performed a literature review (a study of studies) of 26 studies on this topic, and analyzed the results (Anna L. Choi, 2012). The studies were performed by taking children that lived in different parts of China; both in villages with drinking water that had high-fluoride content, and villages with normal fluoride content in their water. They measured the children’s IQ’s and analyzed the differences. Researchers found that there did, in fact, seem to be a correlation between fluoride intake levels and IQ’s in developing children. The children that lived in the high fluoride areas had a significantly lower IQ than those who lived in the lower fluoride areas. The average difference in IQ’s between these two groups was approximately -0.45% using a random effects model, which compares all the results and measures the average of them together. Although this estimated decrease in IQ may seem small, research on other neurotoxins has shown a shift in IQ distributions in a population can have great impacts. (Anna L. Choi, 2012)
The Effect of Fluoride in Drinking Water on Children’s Intelligence is one of the specific studies that were used in the literature review presented above (Xiang, 2003). In this study, researchers measured the IQ of 512 children between the ages of 8 and 13, in two different villages in China. One of the villages’ water had high–fluoride content and the other had low fluoride in their drinking water. In the high-fluoride village, researchers found the IQ’s of children to be significantly lower than the children who lived in the low-fluoride one. They found that higher fluoride drinking levels were significantly linked with mental retardation. (Xiang, 2003)
Why should we care?
While this may seem to us like a non-pressing issue, we need to think about how this is affecting people in underdeveloped countries. If there seems to be so many negative effects present with development and fluoride, should we be taking in any of this chemical at all? Fluoride is known for preventing tooth decay and cavities, but is only safe when taken in safe regulated doses (ADA, 2016). What can we do to help undeveloped countries have cleaner, more regulated drinking water? Taking large amounts of this chemical have shown to be detrimental, especially when it comes to the development of children.
Fluoride can have very negative effects on neurodevelopment in growing children, lowering their IQ’s and causing, on some rate, mental retardation. This chemical can also affect fetus’s development in the womb. While this is not a topic that everyone is aware of, it is very prevalent and important for us to understand how exactly fluoride affects our bodies. Regulating fluoride, particularly in underdeveloped countries, is an extremely pressing issue.
Anna L. Choi, Guifan Sun, Ying Zhand, and Philippe Grandjean (2012). Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Retrieved from: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/ehp.1104912.pdf
Jing Li, Li Yao, Qing-Liang Shao, Chun-Yan Wu, Daqing, China. 2004. Effects of High Fluoride Level on Neonatal Neurobehavioral Development. Retrieved from: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=5A0CABB60E833962551B0A3E51902F05?doi=10.1.1.542.3825&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Xiang, Q., Liang, Y., Chen, L., Wang, C., Chen, B., Chen, X., … & Shanghai, P. R. 2003. Effect of fluoride in drinking water on children’s intelligence. Fluoride, 36(2), 84-94. Retrieved from: http://www.fluorideresearch.org/362/files/FJ2003_v36_n2_p84-94.pdf
American Dental Association. 2016. Fluoride in Water is Safe and it Works. Retrieved from: http://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/advocating-for-the-public/fluoride-and-fluoridation