Is Water Fluoridation Safe?

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Opinion

Tagged: ,

Published on December 16, 2011 with 7 Comments

By Ralph E. Stone

Editor’s Note: Water fluoridation is a controversial topic.  While it is believed small amounts of fluoride added to public water systems may reduce tooth decay, fluoride is a toxin and has been linked to “cot death, eczema and Alzheimer’s. It has been shown, at low doses, to cause genetic damage.”

December 16, 2011

Fluoride is the name given to a group of compounds that are composed of the naturally occurring element, fluorine, and one or more other elements.  In the early 1940s, scientists discovered that people who lived where drinking water supplies had naturally occurring fluoride levels of approximately 1.0  part fluoride, per million parts water (ppm), had fewer dental caries (cavities).  More recent studies have supported this finding.

Fluoride can prevent and even reverse tooth decay by enhancing remineralization, the process by which fluoride “rebuilds” tooth enamel that is beginning to decay.   In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, adjusted the fluoride content of its water supply to 1 ppm and thus became the first city to implement community water fluoridation in a public water system.

On January 7, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) announced a proposal recommending that water systems practicing fluoridation adjust their fluoride content to 0.7 mg/L ppm, as opposed to the previous temperature-dependent optimal levels ranging from 0.7 mg/L to 1.2 mg/L.

About 70 percent of community water systems in the U.S. are treated with fluoride.  Water fluoridation is used in varying degrees in some countries, including Australia, Brazil, some parts of Canada, Chile, Ireland, Malaysia, and Vietnam, but Continental Europe largely does not fluoridate water.  Some countries fluoridate salt.

In California only about 30 percent of water systems are fluoridated, partly because of the high cost of fluoridating its highly complicated water systems.  The California Department of Public Health provides a “California Statewide Fluoridation Table”   showing the California water systems with fluoride.  A state law passed in 1995, mandated that if the money for equipment and initial maintenance costs are provided by provided by sources other than the utility or its customers, water companies must build fluoridation systems.  California has identified and prioritizes 150 cities for fluoridation but never funded the program.

Fluoride is naturally found in low concentration in drinking water and food and the ocean contains between 1.2 and 1.5 ppm.  Fluoridated toothpaste is another main source of fluoride.  Other fluoride-containing dental products include gels, varnishes, pastes, and restorative materials. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates toothpastes and other dental products but not fluoride in our water systems.  Efforts have been made to get Congress to allow the FDA to regulate water additives, but such efforts have failed so far.

The American Dental Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the World Health Organization all support fluoridation.  The CDC calls water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.  If fluoride is beneficial to health, then why is water fluoridation so controversial?

Below are some “Myths & Facts:  Possible responses to common anti-fluoride claims.”

* Opponents argue that fluoridation is a violation of the individual’s right to informed consent to medication.  Actually fluoride is not a medication.  It is mineral naturally found in water and foods.  The only question is what level of fluoridation should be added to the water supply.

* We already can get fluoride in toothpaste, so why do we need it in our drinking water?  The CDC reviewed this question in January 2011. After looking at all the ways we might get fluoride – including fluoride toothpaste – the CDC recommended continuing to fluoridate water at 0.7 ppm. Any less puts our teeth at risk.  Fluoride toothpaste alone is insufficient, which is why pediatricians and dentists prescribe fluoride tablets to children in non-fluoridated areas.

* Doesn’t fluoridation cause fluorosis causing teeth to turn brown and pitted?  Fluorosis is never caused by community water fluoridation because the concentrations are too low.  Mild fluorosis – barely noticeable tiny white specs on one’s teeth – is more common, the result of higher-than-normal fluoride intake as a child. This condition, often noticeable only to dentists, is actually an indication of exceptionally strong teeth. Nevertheless, the CDC last year set the recommended level of fluoridation – 0.7 ppm – low enough to avoid even moderate fluorosis while still strengthening teeth.

* Isn’t fluoride especially toxic for small children?  Actually, children who drink fluoridated water as their teeth grow will have stronger, more decay resistant teeth over their lifetime.

* Is tooth decay still a problem in the United States?  Tooth decay affects nearly 60 percent of children. Tooth decay causes problems that often last long into adulthood.  For example, California children missed 874,000 school days in 2007 due to dental problems.

* Does fluoridation cause cancer and other serious health problems?  The National Cancer Institute has stated: “Many studies, in both humans and animals, have shown no association between fluoridated water and risk for cancer.” In 2006, a panel of the National Research Council—an arm of the National Academies of Science—found no convincing evidence of a causal link between fluoridation and cancer.  And according to the American Council on Science and Health, “Historically, anti-fluoride activists have claimed, with no evidence, that fluoridation causes everything from cancer to mental disease.”

Is community water fluoridation too costly?  No, according to the California Department of Health, the annual cost to fluoridate a community averages $.51 per person per year, depending on community size, labor costs, and type of chemicals and equipment used. This figure amounts to less than the cost of one filling.

Fluoridation has been found to be safe by scientists and ruled proper by a California Court of Appeal in Hermine Beck v. City Council of Beverly Hills, which ruled in a landmark 1973 decision that adding fluoride to water supplies is “a reasonable and proper exercise of the police power in the interest of public health.”   However, even though scientists declared fluoride safe and effective, and the courts have ruled that adding fluoride to water systems is legal, fluoridation continues to be controversial.  For example, see the Fluoride Action Network website.

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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Comments for Is Water Fluoridation Safe? are now closed.

  1. @Eric,

    Put me in the skeptical camp, hence my editor’s note and change of title to “Is Water Fluoridation safe?”asking the question to prompt Foggers to weigh in, as you and others have done.

    In summing up the comments thus far, it appears there is a consensus of opposition to the notion that Water Fluoridation is safe.

  2. Ralph, what the fuck…?

    First nuclear power is cool and safe.. now fluoride? Which as stated in the comments above is put into our water supplies because manufacturers trying to rid themselves of it as a highly toxic waste product have manipulated municipalities all over the country into stupidly adopting fluoridation?

    Properly research before you publish, instead of retyping rip and read material you get from industry propagandists.

    I am an experienced writer and journalist and recognize a regurgitated industry press release when I see one. And that is precisely what the so called ‘article’ printed above is.

    Luke, I know some of the material Ralph writes is good reporting and/or good editorial writing, but reprocessed corporate garbage like this is unacceptable, and as editor I would ask that you weed it out before it hits print.


  3. Examples: Here are a couple of quotes from those 3,825 professionals (including 328 dentists)>>>

    As stated by the recent recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine (2000), Dr. Arvid Carlsson:

    “I am quite convinced that water fluoridation, in a not-too-distant future, will be consigned to medical history…Water fluoridation goes against leading principles of pharmacotherapy, which is progressing from a stereotyped medication — of the type 1 tablet three times a day — to a much more individualized therapy as regards both dosage and selection of drugs. The addition of drugs to the drinking water means exactly the opposite of an individualized therapy.”

    As stated by Dr. Peter Mansfield, a physician from the UK and advisory board member of the recent government review of fluoridation (McDonagh et al 2000):

    “No physician in his right senses would prescribe for a person he has never met, whose medical history he does not know, a substance which is intended to create bodily change, with the advice: ‘Take as much as you like, but you will take it for the rest of your life because some children suffer from tooth decay. ‘ It is a preposterous notion.”

  4. UMarmot (Special Collections & University Archives) University of Massachusetts Amherts Libraries

    2 Successful Legal Cases Against Fluoride

    As the principal attorney representing the plaintiffs in two lawsuits to prevent the fluoridation of civic water supplies, John Remington Graham had a profound impact on the antifluoridation cause. In November 1978, Graham convinced Allegheny County (Pa.) Judge John P. Flaherty to prohibit fluoridation in the borough of West View, Pa., with the judge writing that it was “simple prudence” to do so in the face of evidence that fluoride was a carcinogen. Four years later, Judge Anthony Ferris ruled similarly in the case of Safe Water Foundation of Texas v. city of Houston, citing not only the carcinogenicity of fluorides, but their toxicity and inefficacy in reducing dental decay.

    Consisting of the trial transcripts of Paul Aitkenhead v. Borough of West View (No. GD-4585-78) and Safe Water Foundation of Texas v. City of Houston, District Court of Texas (151st Judicial District, No. 80-52271), the Graham collection documents two high-profile, successful attempts to use the legal system to prevent the fluoridation of public water.

    •Water–Fluoridation–Law and legislation–Pennsylvania.
    •Water–Fluoridation–Law and legislation–Texas.
    EPA’S 1500 Water Safety Scientists, after 11 years of their own studies, are on record in 1997, & every year since then, as unanimously being against fluoridating public water, refusing to have any fluoride in their own office drinking water, demanding a Congressional moratorium on all fluoride in food and water in 2005, and quoting from their own research studies that fluoride is a causal link to cancer, genetic damage, neurological and brain impairment, bone pathology, and lowering IQ in children.

    In addition to Fluoride Action Network’s website, go to my website to order the book I wrote that gives a comprehensive history of the fluoride scam (i.e., while sodium fluoride was used in pro-fluoride lab tests, it is NOT sodium fluoride that is used in our water supply), titled “Fluoridation, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”>>

    Share your thoughts on my blog while you’re there.

  5. Curious, isn’t it, that the author states that “Actually fluoride is not a medication.”

    According to the FDA, it is an unapproved drug. It is added to water ostensibly to treat a disease, dental decay, making it mass medication without informed consent.

    Equally curious is the author’s failure to state that added fluoride is not a natural substance. Rather it is a waste byproduct of the fertilizer, steel and aluminum smelting industries. Even the CDC admits this fact.

    For readers who are not afraid of the truth, read fluoridation’s political history. See The Fluoride Deception by Christopher Bryson. Or visit

  6. Fluoridation is a Hoax and a Waste of Tax Money

    Read the truth produced in the best scientific information on fluoridation here: ( You will see a petition signed by almost 4000 professionals, including hundreds of dentists, hundreds of doctors, and other medical researchers calling on governments everywhere to stop fluoridation.
    There are many large scientific studies there to show that drinking fluoridated water has no positive effect on cavity reduction and to show that it causes cancer, thyroid damage, broken hips from brittle bones, lowered IQ and other health problems.

    THe World Health Organization studied 16 countries and showed fluoride is of no value for teeth. Europe has rejected it and is 98% fluoride free. Many other large scientific studies in several countries show the same ineffectiveness.

    Even if fluoride was helpful to teeth, distributing any drug in drinking water is the most expensive and wasteful method. As a Civil Engineer, I know that people drink only 1/2% (one-half percent) of the water they use. The remaining 99 ½ % of the water with this toxic fluoride chemical (Hexafluorosilicic acid) is dumped directly into the environment through the sewer system.

    For example, for every $1000 of fluoride chemical added to water, $995 would be directly wasted down the drain in toilets, showers, dishwashers, etc., $5 would be consumed in water by the people, and less than $0.50 (fifty cents) would be consumed by children, the target group for this outdated practice.

    That would be comparable to buying one gallon of milk, using six-and-one-half drops of it, and pouring the rest of the gallon in the sink.

    Fluoridation surely is in contention as the most wasteful government program. Giving away fluoride tablets free to anyone who wants them would be far cheaper and certainly more ethical, because then we would have the freedom to choose.

  7. Fluoridation Opposition is Scientific, Respectable & Growing

    More than 3,825 professionals (including 328 dentists) urge that fluoridation be stopped citing scientific evidence that ingesting fluoride is ineffective at reducing tooth decay and has serious health risks. See statement: