Is #Fluoride Dangerous?

fluoride toothpaste on toothbrush

I grew up on fluoride. My family had fluoridated toothpaste; as a child, I was taken to the dentist for regular fluoride treatments. And so I raised my children the same way: fluoridated. But new studies are emerging that have made me rethink that decision. And now I’m worried: Is fluoride dangerous?

I grew up on fluoride. But now I’m worried: Is fluoride dangerous?

Roughly three-quarters of Americans drink fluoridated water, at levels between .7 and 1.2 milligram per liter, as part of a federal effort to prevent tooth decay that began in the 1960s. Historically, local and state governments decided whether or not to add fluoride–and at what levels–to municipal water (visit the Center for Disease Control’s website to find out if water if fluoridated in your state). The fluoride additive is derived from manufacturing phosphate fertilizer, according to the CDC, which recommends it to “promote good oral health.”

But now scientists are beginning to rethink this policy, because some studies beg the question: Is fluoride dangerous?

According to the Fluoride Action Network, most developed nations do not fluoridate their water, and yet there’s no difference in rates of tooth decay. (Granted, it’s a biased source, but that fact seemed worth mentioning.)

In March, a study published in Environmental Health found that states with higher levels of water fluoridation had correspondingly high levels of ADHD. The data held solid across six years of examination, even when adjusted for socioeconomic status.

According to a Newsweek story on the study: “Since 1992, the percentage of the U.S. population that drinks fluoridated water has increased from 56 percent to 67 percent, during which time the percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis has increased from around seven percent to more than 11 percent.”

And then there’s this:

Research conducted in 2012 found that children living in areas with high levels of water fluoridation had lower IQ scores.

A 2007 study found that children living in areas with high levels of water fluoridation also showed high levels of lead in their bodies; lead is a known neurotoxin and autism trigger.

One recent English study found high fluoride levels linked to hypothyroidism.

These studies may have been behind the Department of Health and Human Services recent about face on the amount of fluoride in drinking water, the first action taken on this issue since 1962. Last month, they cut the recommendation in half, to .7 milligrams per liter. The move came because “now Americans have access to more sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, than they did when fluoridation was first introduced in the United States,” deputy surgeon general Dr. Boris Lushniak was quoted as saying in a NPR story on the decision.

As I posted previously, children consider toothpaste a condiment–a fact that worried me when I realized there was propylene glycol and other toxic chemicals in the mix. My kids are old enough to spit, not swallow, but after doing my research on fluoride I wonder if we should give that up, as well.

Here are a few natural fluoride-free toothpastes that I found on Amazon, which are free of sodium lauryl sulfates, parabens, triclosan and other baddies as well. For adults, I like Now Foods Xyliwhite Baking Soda Toothpaste in Platinum Mint or Jason Sea Fresh Toothpaste in Deep Sea Spearmint. For kids, there’s Coral Kids Toothpaste in Berry Bubblegum, which is sweetened with stevia.

What do you think? Do you use fluoride toothpaste? Is your water fluoridated? Please tell me about it, in comments below. Thanks!



  1. I choose to use fluoride-free toothpastes and often make my own, but my favorite one to buy is Earth Paste, in the cinnamon flavor. It has only a few simple ingredients and works well and tastes good. It doesn’t foam and it’s brown from the clay in it, so for some people it will probably seem weird but I really like it! Even my 7 yr old nephew, who does not like “spicy” mint flavored toothpastes, was willing to try my cinnamon Earth Paste and didn’t complain about it. 🙂

  2. I have studied natural living for most of my life. I am not a doctor, dentist or scholar. I used floride toothpaste until I was in my 40s and stopped using it due to reading about the dangers of it. Actually, I stopped using all man-made concoctions when I was in my thirties after I took a pill for a headache given to me by a pharmaceutical salesman. I stopped breathing and watched my husband carry me out to the car to take me to the emergency room. I was watching him from above. I seemed to connect with my body at the hospital. I told the doctor what I had taken and he said that it was all in my head. I asked how I could know if I was allergic to the compound and he “sarcastically” said “Take another”. I asked my own doctor about it and he said that it was rare for anyone to be allergic to that compound. I had been having severe headaches and on one occasion I went to him for help. He gave me a prescription and when I took it…my throat swelled and I couldn’t breath. My doctor helped me and apologized saying “I’m sorry. I really didn’t think that it would hurt, but it does have the same substance that was in the pill you took before.
    That is when I decided to take care of my own health and research. I try to eat whole, natural foods and take no chemicals…..Rx or over-the-counter. I am 80 yrs and have more energy than most of my friends and neighbors who are much younger. I also have all my own teeth and only 4 fillings from my 20s.
    I take responsibility for my life, actions, health. I watch the TV commercials about drugs and their side affects. The FDA approves these things and then a couple years later the attorneys get on the band-wagon and want to sue the doctors and pharmaceutical companies and the FDA takes them off the market. What is wrong with this picture?
    Doctors and Dentists defend their practice and those who choose to accept the statements turn around and blame them for mal-practice. Few seem to want to take responsibility for their own lives.
    I’m not telling anyone else what to do with their lives, but I choose to be responsible for my own. I don’t argue or defend my choice. I just enjoy my good health and bless those who call me stupid or wrong.

    • Rachel Sarnoff says:

      Wow thank you for sharing this Granny! I love the example you set, to take control of your own health and research the choices that are best for you. Also, as I’m sure you know, it’s been well documented that for years male doctors told female patients their symptoms were “all in the head.” I wonder if a female doctor would have reacted so callously to your allergic reaction!

      • That is true, but I think male or female doctors will each have an attitude and that spills over to the patient. It is up to the individual to evaluate the diagnosis and research and take charge of their own health. If ine doesn’t want to do their own research then get another opinion.

  3. Deborah Zarett says:

    I’m agreeing with the dentist’s post on this subject. In recent years, conspiracy theorists have decided that fluoride was a government plot to make the populace stupid and compliant. It’s a popular belief among both tea partiers and and many organics/all-natural enthusiasts. I spent most of my formative years (up to age 12) with fluoridated water. I don’t have a low IQ, am definitely not compliant, and I don’t have ADHD. I’m actually OCD. I think it’s just another round of paranoia.

  4. After all that….. I’ve been Hashimotos hypothyroid all my adult life and I have dental fluorosis. I have no problem filtering my drinking water and using Toms Fluoride free toothpaste. My dental hygienist didn’t even bat an eye when I stopped fluoride treatments during checkups – she knew why without me even explaining. I highly doubt I will develop a fluoride deficiency ;D

  5. Steven Slott says:

    Ok, so, let’s address your concerns:

    1. “Is fluoride dangerous?”
    There is no substance known to man which is not dangerous at improper levels, including plain water. Fluoride at the optimal level is not dangerous. Fluoridation has been the most studied, and discussed public health initiative in history. Yet, in its entire 70 year history, there have been no proven adverse effects.

    Most water has contained a certain level of fluoride since the beginning of time. Fluoridation simply adds a minuscule amount more fluoride to the existing level, such that maximum dental decay prevention will occur, while remaining below the threshold level where adverse effects could occur. In spite of erroneous claims that “naturally occurring fluoride” is different from that which is added, the fluoride added is identical to that which already exists in water. I will be glad to explain the chemistry if so desired.

    2. “But now scientists are beginning to rethink this policy, because some studies beg the question: Is fluoride dangerous? ”

    There is no “rethinking” occurring amongst respected science and healthcare in regard to water fluoridation. Ultra conservative activist factions have been arguing against fluoridation since the John Birch Society at the very beginning of this program. The same arguments are simply repackaged and recycled for each new generation of activists. The emergence of the internet has accorded groups such as the “Fluoride Action Network” the ability disseminate their personal ideology and misinformation to a much wider audience, at a much faster rate.

    Over 150 of the most highly respected healthcare and healthcare-related organizations in the world support fluoridation. There is not one, single such group which opposes it.

    3. “According to the Fluoride Action Network, most developed nations do not fluoridate their water, and yet there’s no difference in rates of tooth decay. (Granted, it’s a biased source, but that fact seemed worth mentioning.)”

    The cause and preventive aspects involved in dental decay are myriad and diverse. Attempts to assess the effectiveness of but one dental decay preventive measure based on snapshots of data which control for no other variables, have no merit.

    Countless peer-reviewed scientific studies clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of fluoridation. I will be glad to cite as many as anyone would reasonably care to read

    4. “In March, a study published in Environmental Health found that states with higher levels of water fluoridation had correspondingly high levels of ADHD. The data held solid across six years of examination, even when adjusted for socioeconomic status”

    Another 2014 study, Huber, et al, using the exact same data as did the Malin, et al. ADHD study, concluded that the reported cases of ADHD were correlated with the elevation level at which the children resided, not with fluoridated water. This simply demonstrates the poor lack of controls of the Malin study. Socio-economic status is but one of countless factors involved in ADHD which should be considered before credibly concluding that this disorder is correlated with water fluoridation, or any other factor. The Malin study has already received widespread criticism for its inadequate control for variables, bias of the authors, questionable methodology, and its conclusions.

    A. “It’s an ecological study design with 51 observations (50 states & DC), and is not appropriate to test a hypothesis. ADHD prevalence was based on self-reported data, and hence had a potential of misclassification of disorder status. State-wide fluoridation measures were used. Individuals’ exposure to fluoridation were not measured. Due to ecological assessment of exposure to fluoride in drinking water and the use of prevalence data of self-reported ADHD and water fluoridation from different years, the findings are at high risk for ecological fallacy. Authors did not adjust for important confounders (smoking, low birth weight, age, sex etc.). Moreover, authors’ poor literature review and skewed interpretation of literature concerning fluoride and neurodevelomental defects may have introduced bias.


    B. Poor quality ecological study with important design limitations – e.g., at high risk of ecological fallacy, measurement error (ADHD prevalence based on self-report), and confounding bias. 
    The authors’ provide a bias view of the effects of fluoridation on children’s cognitive functions in their “introduction” and “discussion” sections; they state “Fluoride is a developmental neurotoxin associated with impaired cognitive functioning in infants and children” (page 9)

    Their conclusion is misleading for three reasons: 

    a. They reference Grandjean & Landrigan (2014) a poor quality literature review, as evidence that fluoride is a neurotoxin. Grandejean & Landrigan conclusions are based on Choi et al. (2012) systematic review, which included poor quality primary studies that did not control for confounders and not applicable to community water fluoridation. 
    b. They fail to cite a recent strong quality cohort study by Broadbent et al. (2014), which reported New Zealand children (followed from birth) living in fluoridated communities (0.85 ppm) did not
    differ in IQ compared to those living in non-fluoridated communities (0.0-0.03 ppm). This held true  at age 38 years, both before and after adjusting for confounders. 

    c. They fail to report three scientific reviews that have concluded insufficient evidence of an
    association between optimal fluoride consumption and adverse health effects.

    —–Peel Public Health


    5. “And then there’s this: Research conducted in 2012 found that children living in areas with high levels of water fluoridation had lower IQ scores”.

    The 2012 research to which you refer was actually a review, by Harvard researchers, of 27 Chinese studies found in obscure Chinese scientific journals, of the effects of high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the well water of various Chinese, Mongolian, and Iranian villages. The concentration of fluoride in these studies was as high as 11.5 ppm. By the admission of the Harvard researchers, these studies had key information missing, used questionable methodologies, and had inadequate controls for confounding factors. These studies were so seriously flawed that the lead researchers, Anna Choi, and Phillippe Grandjean, were led to issue the following statement in September of 2012:

    “–These results do not allow us to make any judgment regarding possible levels of risk at levels of exposure typical for water fluoridation in the U.S. On the other hand, neither can it be concluded that no risk is present. We therefore recommend further research to clarify what role fluoride exposure levels may play in possible adverse effects on brain development, so that future risk assessments can properly take into regard this possible hazard.”

    –Anna Choi, research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH, lead author, and Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH, senior author

    As it seems there have been no translations of these studies into English by any reliable, objective source, it is unclear as to whether they had even been peer-reviewed, a basic for credibility of any scientific study. 

    6. “A 2007 study found that children living in areas with high levels of water fluoridation also showed high levels of lead in their bodies; lead is a known neurotoxin and autism trigger”

    The theory of increased lead uptake due to fluoridation compounds was debunked by Urbansky and Schock in 2000, and by Macek, et al. in 2006

    “Controlling for covariates, water fluoridation method was significant only in the models that included dwellings built before 1946 and dwellings of unknown age. Across stratum- specific models for dwellings of known age, neither hydrofluosilicic acid nor sodium silicofluoride were associated with higher geometric mean PbB concentrations or prevalence values. Given these findings, our analyses, though not definitive, do not support concerns that silicofluorides  in community water systems cause higher PbB concentrations in children. Current evidence does not provide a basis for changing water fluoridation practices, which have a clear public health benefit.”

    Blood Lead Concentrations in Children and Method of Water Fluoridation in the United States, 1988-1994
    Environ Health Perspec. 2006 January; 114 (1): 130-134
    Mark D. Macek, Thomas D. Matte, Thomas Sinks, and Delores M. Malvitz

    “Overall, we conclude that no credible evidence exists to show that water fluoridation has any quantitatable effects on the solubility, bioavailability, bio- accumulation, or reactivity of lead(0) or lead(I1) compounds. The governing factors are the concentrations of a number of other species, such as (bi)carbonate, hydroxide, or chloride, whose effects far exceed those of fluoride or fiuorosilicates under drinking water conditions.”

    Can Fluoridation Affect Lead (II) In Potable Water? Hexafluorosilicate and Fluoride Equilibria In Aqueous Solution
    Urbansky, E.T., Schocks, M.R.
    Intern. J . Environ. Studies, 2000, Voi. 57. pp. 597-637

    7. “One recent English study found high fluoride levels linked to hypothyroidism”

    The hypothyroidism study was one performed by Stephen Peckham, a long-time antifluoridationists who is the former chair of the British antifluoridationist faction, “Hampshire Against Fluoride”. This study, too has already received widespread criticism for its questionable methodology, inadequate control for variables, and conclusion which is not supported by the peer-reviewed science.

    A. “As epidemiological evidence goes, this is about as weak as it gets.”

    “That is the comment by Prof David Coggon, Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Southampton, on a new paper claiming hyperthyroidism is linked to water fluoridation. Published yesterday in the peer-reviewed Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, the paper is:”

    “Peckham, S., Lowery, D., & Spencer, S. (2015). Are fluoride levels in drinking water associated with hypothyroidism prevalence in England? A large observational study of GP practice data and fluoride levels in drinking water. J Epidemiol Community Health, 1–6.”

    “Prof Coggan goes on to say:”

    “Essentially the researchers have shown that after limited adjustment for demographic differences, there are somewhat higher rates of hypothyroidism (which can result from a number of different diseases) in four areas of England that have higher concentrations of fluoride in drinking water. It is quite possible that the observed association is a consequence of other ways in which the areas with higher fluoride differ from the rest of the country. There are substantially more rigorous epidemiological methods by which the research team could have tested their idea”

    B. A major weakness of this study is the fact that other potential confounding factors have not been taken into account; this makes the conclusions regarding the community health utility of water fluoridation problematic. The strong conclusion of the paper by Peckham et al is not supported by the published literature. What is without question is that fluoride has had a remarkable and positive effect on our dental health, and the evidence base for this is overwhelming. The WHO recommends up to 1.5 mg/L for optimum dental health on the basis of decades of epidemiological study, which has consistently shown water fluoridation

    to be safe and cost-effective. The conclusions of the study by Peckham et al are simply not convincing, and should perhaps be taken with a large pinch of (fluoridated) salt.

    —Commentary on “Are fluoride levels in drinking water associated with hypothyroidism prevalence in England?
    A large observational study of GP practice data and fluoride levels in drinking water”
    Grimes DR. J Epidemiol Community Health
    Published Online First: doi:10.1136/jech-2015-205708

    C. “The quality of the evidence is moderate with important methodological limitations, and should be
    interpreted with caution.

    • There is a high risk of conflict of interest as the principal investigator is a long-­‐time anti-­‐fluoridation activist.

    . The authors’ assessment of the evidence-­‐base is unbalanced and misinterpreted, contains
    inaccuracies and lacks citation of key studies.

    • The results of this study do not support the consistent findings of three scientific reviews, which report insufficient evidence of an association between exposure to fluoride in drinking water and adverse thyroid effects.”

    —-Prepared by Peel Public Health (Marco Ghassemi, Research and Policy Analyst) Feb. 26, 2015

    8. “These studies may have been behind the Department of Health and Human Services recent about face on the amount of fluoride in drinking water, the first action taken on this issue since 1962. Last month, they cut the recommendation in half, to .7 milligrams per liter”

    These studies had absolutely nothing to do with recent update of the optimal level recommendation by the US Department of Health and Services. Neither was this update an “about face” of any kind, nor a “cut” in half of the recommendation.

    The optimal level of fluoride in drinking water is that level at which maximum dental decay prevention will occur, with no adverse effects. This optimal level was originally set by the US Public Health Service in 1962, as a range of 0.7 ppm to 1.2 ppm. It was set as a range in order to allow for different amounts of water consumption between different climates. Recent scientific evidence has demonstrated that, due to air-conditioning and other modern amenities, there no longer exist any significant difference in water consumption due to climate differences. Thus, there is no longer a need for a range. In recognition of this fact and of the greater availability of fluoride now, than when the optimal was originally established, the CDC, in 2011, recommended that the optimal range be consolidated into simply the low end of that range, 0.7 ppm. After several years of careful study and consideration as to whether this consolidation would significantly reduce the dental decay prevention of fluoridation, the US DHHS determined that it would not. Thus, in keeping with the original goal of providing maximum dental decay protection while minimizing any risk of adverse effects, the US DHHS recently announced that the optimal recommendation had been officially consolidated into the low end of the previous optimum range. The current optimal level is 0.7 ppm, the level at which most water systems have been fluoridating for years, anyway.

    9. Fluoridated toothpaste contains 1200-1500 times the fluoride concentration of fluoridated water. Yes, its use by small children should be monitored by parents. However, this does not mean that fluoridated water is in any manner dangerous, or that entire populations should be deprived of its very valuable benefits.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS

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