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Healthy living 101: Is fluoride safe?

Reverse Osmosis
Mary Thomas

A recent meta-analysis (a study that combines and evaluates many other studies to draw conclusions), performed at Harvard Department of Environmental Health, concluded: The results support the possibility of an adverse effect of high fluoride exposure on children’s neurodevelopment. The study concluded with a 95% confidence interval that children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low fluoride areas.

More than 40 other studies (see reference list and follow links) show that prolonged exposure to varying levels of fluoride can damage the brain, particularly when coupled with an iodine deficiency, or aluminum excess:
• 36 human studies linked moderately high fluoride exposures with reduced intelligence
• 16 animal studies reported that mice or rats ingesting fluoride had an impaired capacity to learn and remember
• 12 studies (7 human, 5 animal) linked fluoride with neurobehavioral deficits
• 3 human studies linked fluoride exposure with impaired fetal brain development and accumulation of fluoride in the pineal gland

What does the American Dental Association have to say about Fluoride?
According to the statement on their website: “The American Dental Association unreservedly endorses the fluoridation of community water supplies as safe, effective and necessary in preventing tooth decay. This support has been the Association's position since policy was first adopted in 1950.” However, the ADA does not cite any valid research to support their position or any proof that fluoride is safe for consumption. Even if fluoride helps prevent dental cavities, is it worth lower intelligence, especially in children?

So, what about Minnesotans?
Although fluoride is in 70% of the United States’ drinking water, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 census figures show Minnesota as having nearly 99% of the water fluorinated. Minnesota Statute § 144.145 requires statewide fluoridation of all public water supplies. The statute gives the Minnesota Commission of Health complete authority over the regulation of the mandate. State administrative code requires that public water supplies contain an average concentration of 1.2 mg/l, with no less than 0.9 mg/l, and no more than 1.5 mg/l.

Is bottled water safe to drink?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards of quality state that domestic bottled water with no added fluoride may contain between 1.4 and 2.4 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of fluoride and does not require fluoride content to be listed on the label. Therefore, the manufacturer would need to be contacted to determine if any specific brand contains fluoride. There are some web listings of various brands and the fluoride content, but they are contradictory of one another.

What can you do?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the only way to assure fluoride is removed from your drinking water is by distillation or reverse osmosis. A reverse osmosis system can be purchased or rented. Twin Cities’ area Home Depot’s cost ranges from $179 - $279 for the unit, $45 for two replacement filters (required annually), and $78 for replacement membrane (required every two years). Fleet Farm also carries a unit for $146 with replacement filters and membrane at $42 and $49. You can also check find and order reverse osmosis systems on-line. Click HERE for a buyer's guide.

If you live in the Twin Cities, you can rent a system from Culligan for around $32.00 per month. This fee includes regular service with filter and membrane changes. (Hint: If you stop by the Culligan booth at the Minnesota State Fair this August, you can usually get a discount). Culligan will install a spout (like the picture) where you can access the filtered water. This is a nice feature as the water can also be used for cooking, making coffee, and cleaning produce. Culligan can also hook the system to your automatic ice cube maker.

Additional measures can be taken by using fluoride-free toothpaste (found at many Twin City locations, including Target) and refusing fluoride treatments at the dentist for yourself and your children. However, be warned that because of the ADA’s position on fluoride, you will have to stand your ground and it would be helpful to have a hard copy of the Harvard study with you (cited below).

• Choi, A. L., Sun, G., Zhang, Y., Grandjean, P. (2012). Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(10), 1362-1368. doi:10.1289/ehp.1104912
American Dental Association (ADA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Culligan of Minnesota
Environmental Protection (EPA)
Environmental Working Group
Natural News
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)


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