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Is fluoride considered a poison in most European countries?

by Julia Layton

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The Fluoridation Debate

The most common argument against fluoridation is pretty simple: In excessive doses, fluoride acts as a poison and causes health problems -- so why risk it with your health? Fluoride can cause discoloration or corrosion of teeth (dental fluorosis) and it can weaken bones (skeletal fluorosis). In the 1990s, the U.S. Public Health Service noted an increase in dental fluorosis in fluoridated areas since the 1940s, when water fluoridation began. But then why the evidence is considered inconclusive because lots of products (like toothpaste, mouthwash and dietary supplements) now contain fluoride that didn't 60 years ago. So is it's hard to know where the fluoride overdose is coming from -- the water and the toothpaste.
But in March 2006, the National Research Council declared that the U.S. EPA is allowing levels of fluoride in drinking water that can damage children's teeth. At water-fluoride levels at or above 4 ppm (or 4 mg/L), there is evidence to suggest that consumption could increase the risk of serious fluorosis

The National Academy of Sciences estimates that as of 1992, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. were drinking water with fluoride levels above 4 ppm. The NAS states that levels above 2 ppm can cause cosmetic dental issues like white spots on teeth, a very mild form of dental fluorosis . This may seem like a cut-and-dry case for discontinuing water fluoridation, but the ADA points out that while these levels surpass the optimal fluoridation level for dental benefits, they're still safe -- 4 ppm is what the EPA has set as the maximum amount of naturally occurring fluoride. Above that level, cities are supposed to remove fluoride before the water is considered safe.
It's proven that ingesting high levels of fluoride can cause health problems, and the EPA has been regulating fluoride as a drinking-water contaminant for decades. But from there, the case gets hazy, since so many experts set forth the case that adding small amounts of fluoride to the public water supply can safely decrease the incidence of dental problems. Organizations like the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, the International Dental Federation and the World Health Organization all believe that water fluoridation is a health benefit. In 1999, the CDC actually named water fluoridation on the top 10 list of 20th century health achievements.
The debate about the risks and benefits of fluoride will continue until not only the scientific community but also the general public can agree on the matter. The biggest argument against fluoride is that it damages children's teeth, and there's some evidence to that effect.
Many countries, including the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, still fluoridate drinking water (and about 10 percent of the British population drinks fluoridated water). Germany, France, Belgium and Switzerland do not -- although some of those countries do fluoridate their table salt.
Most organizations and countries agree, however, that infants shouldn't ingest extra fluoride. In November 2006, the American Dental Association recommended against giving fluoride-enhanced products to children less than one year old. Studies have shown that infants who drink fluoridated water are at significant risk for dental fluorosis. For decades, parents have been warned to supervise young children brushing with fluoride toothpaste so they don't swallow a mouthful of the stuff.
Clearly, there are risks associated with fluoride consumption. What people can't seem to agree on is whether fluoridated water carries risks for adults and whether those risks outweigh the possible benefits to oral health.
Harvard University researchers’ review of fluoride/brain studies concludes “our results support the possibility of adverse effects of fluoride exposures on children’s neurodevelopment.” It was published online July 20 in Environmental Health Perspectives, a US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ journal , reports the NYS Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc. (NYSCOF)
“The children in high fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ than those who lived in low fluoride areas,” write Choi et al.
Further, the EPA says fluoride is a chemical “with substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.”
Fluoride (fluosilicic acid) is added to US water supplies at approximately 1 part per million attempting to reduce tooth decay.
Water was the only fluoride source in the studies reviewed and was based on high water fluoride levels. However, they point out research by Ding (2011) suggested that low water fluoride levels had significant negative associations with children’s intelligence.
Compared with the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the frequency of fatalities stemming from the ingestion of fluoride compounds has declined dramatically. Since 1978, there have been four fatalities caused by the ingestion of fluoride, all in dental products. The numbers of exposures to fluoride doses that cause concern, however, has increased, as judged by the annual reports of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The number of reports made to poison control centers has increased from approximately 7700 in 1984 to 10,700 in 1989. Over 3700 persons have been treated in health care facilities for exposure to fluoride during this period, and there have been 133 cases for which the medical outcomes were classified as moderate or major. The sources of fluoride have been limited almost exclusively to fluoride-containing vitamins and dental products. Based on a review of the doses involved in the four fatalities, three of which involved young children, the "probably toxic dose" of fluoride has been set at 5 mg F/kg body weight. For children who are 6 years of age or less, the PTD can be found in single containers of several kinds of dental products. Recommendations that should reduce the frequency of over-exposures to fluoride are described.
Regarding adverse effects due to the chronic intake of fluoride (excluding dental fluorosis), there is no evidence for risk in the US up to the level of intake that is associated with drinking water containing 4 ppm. This statement is based on 1990 or 1991 reports by the NY State Department of Health, the USPHS, and the National Cancer Institute. Two new reports, however, have implicated chronic fluoride intake at relatively low levels in a higher incidence of bone fractures.

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