Fluoride & Brain Damage

Yesterday I wrote about anti-fluoridationists misrepresenting a study in a pathetic attempt to link heart disease and water fluoridation. Today I want to take a look at another paper often cited in response to criticism of their claims.  The publishing of the paper, Effects of the fluoride on the central nervous system, resulted in the headline “New Study: Fluoride Can Damage the Brain-Avoid Use in Children” quickly spreading across the internet. The paper represents not an experiment but rather a review of past literature with the author’s interpretations thrown in. For the most part anti-fluoridationists have misinterpreted the conclusion and implications of this paper.

My mantra is “Read the original study”, whenever possible I like to track down the study and read it myself, not relying on journalists. This is one of the cases when reading the original paper can be enlightening. The paper starts out in the introduction saying, “The aim of this review is to set out information regarding the toxic potential of F and its effects on the nervous system, with special attention to populations exposed to the intake of this mineral at concentrations outside official guidelines.” The author goes on to cite studies of populations in areas with high natural fluoride concentrations and a few animal studies in which high doses were administered. At the end of the study the author concludes, “Fluorine is a chemical element found in high concentrations in the earth’s crust. In many countries where the main source of drinking water is hydrothermal, F concentrations exceed those contemplated by the corresponding official regulations…it is recommended that the geographical location of a given population and the quality of the water they drink should be taken into consideration so as to take preventive measures for its use and, in areas where the fluoride concentration exceeds 0.7 mg/L, to avoid the intake of the drinking water, fluorinated salt, and the use of toothpastes and articles containing F.

As you can see, the misreporting of this study was simply another case of reading comprehension failure from the the fluoride fear-mongers. It does not serve as evidence that the current recommendations for fluoride use are significantly flawed or that such use is dangerous. Now repeat after me, read the original study, read the original study, read the original study, read the…

Another oft cited piece to bolster the claim regarding brain damage is an article titled “Indian study proves that fluoride consumption causes brain, neurological damage” that was reporting on a study titled “Neurodegenerative changes in different regions of brain, spinal cord and sciatic nerve of rats treated with sodium fluoride“. Contrary to what the anti-fluoridationists would have you assume this study was not about the suggested safe levels of artificial water fluoridation but rather about the toxic effects of exposure to excessively high levels at many times the recommend threshold of 0.7 ppm. You see India has many areas with naturally high fluoride levels, in some areas exceeding 20 ppm, resulting in some health problems. Knowledge of possible danger from high levels of natural fluoride in drinking water is nothing new. Health professionals and regulators are well aware of this issue and in many areas with naturally occurring fluoride filtration is used to lower fluoride content to safe levels. Additionally the study did not involve human subjects, rather its was a study that involved giving a group of 6 rats 20 ppm of sodium fluoride daily with another 6 rats acting as a control group. Given the nature and focus of the study and the tiny sample size it is simply not possible to extrapolate that the current practices of water fluoridation and use of dental fluoride are harmful. Once again we have a study taken out of context and misinterpreted to support the preconceived conspiratorial views of anti-fluoridation proponents.

Further Reading:
Fluoride & the Brain: Déjà Vu
Fluoride & the Brain: Strike 3, You’re Out!
Fluoride & the Brain: The China Studies
Fluoride & Heart Disease?
When public action undermines public health: a critical examination of antifluoridationist literature by Jason M Armfield

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7 Responses to “Fluoride & Brain Damage”

  1. Steve Savage Says:

    reading the original paper is an excellent policy, but it also helps to have someone like you doing it for those who don’t have the background etc. Keep up the great work

  2. Hal Says:

    When you talk about anti-fluoridationists you really seem to mean journalists or would-be journalists who love a sensational headline. There are plenty of those around, but few have much understanding of fluoride and its effects, nor are they necessarily much concerned about fluoridation.

    The Indian paper is just one of a long series of publications, mostly from from hi-fluoride countries, that deal with possible effects of fluoride on the brain and intelligence. Measurement of plasma fluoride concentrations would have improved it. Of course it’s not possible to extrapolate directly to humans, but equally it would be foolish to ignore a body of results that are beginning to look disturbing.

  3. nyscof Says:

    It’s interesting that you highlight this “where the fluoride concentration exceeds 0.7 mg/L” as if its something Americans shouldn’t worry about when most fluoridated communities exceed that amount since they have been required to add fluoride at levels between .07 mg/L and 1.2 mg/L and allowed to have 4 mg/L naturally. Anything above that puts water drinkers at risk of bone damage. A secondary level of 2 mg/L is the level by which children must not drink the water because it ups the risk of dental fluorosis or discolored of teeth.

    So thank you for confirming that the fluoride levels found in US water supplies can be detrimental to the brain and that’s before excess fluoride is factored in from foods, beverages, drugs, dental products and air pollution.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      The “.7 mg/L and 1.2 mg/L” figure you cite is the U.S. Public Health Service’s recommendation from 1962 based on the available evidence at the time and the range was based on ambient air temperature since this affect water intake. However the new recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services call for .07 mg/L. I would like to see a reference for the claim that “most fluoridated communities exceed that amount”. My quick perusal of My Water’s Fluoride showed many communities meeting the 0.7 mark or are within .1 or .2 of the mark.

      The purpose of my article was primarily to address artificial water fluoridation and use of fluoride toothpaste, rather than addressing naturally occurring fluoride. The level of naturally occurring fluoride is regulated by the EPA. Of the U.S. communities with fluoride in their water only 5% of the population is exposed to drinking water with naturally occurring fluoride at or above the the recommended levels set by the EPA and this [i]is[/i] an issue, though it does not appear to be a focus of your organization.
      The EPA is currently considering a revision of their recommendations based on the NRC report. Here we have two examples of why science rules, that it is self-correcting. We advance as we gather more data, replicate experiments, and learn more.

      Also both the recommendations from the EPA and the DHHS explicitly state that they take other fluoride sources that you mention into account, in fact the increase in fluoride sources is stated as one reason for updating the recommendations. Also artificial fluoridation is not compounded with high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in water, its not .7 + 4.0, not sure if you were implying that but wanted to clear it up.

      So no, I don’t think this study confirms that current standard for adding fluoride to water “detrimental to the brain”

      Why is EPA’s drinking water standard different than Department of Health and Human Service’s recommended optimal fluoridation level for community drinking water systems?
      EPA’s drinking water standard differs from the Department of Health and Human Service’s recommended optimal fluoridation level because the two benchmarks have different purposes and are set under different authorities. The EPA’s enforceable standard for the highest level of fluoride that is allowed in public water supplies is 4.0 milligrams per liter, is set to protect against risks from exposure to too much fluoride. The HHS recommended optimal level of 0.7 milligrams per liter is set to promote public health benefits of fluoride for preventing tooth decay while minimizing the chance for dental fluorosis.

  4. Fluoride & the Brain: Déjà Vu « Skeptical Vegan Says:

    […] Reading: Fluoride & Brain Damage Fluoride & Heart Disease? Community Water Fluoridation: Guidelines and Recommendations Your […]

  5. smarty Says:

    Thank you for this site – excellent research!

  6. socialsity Says:

    For being a supposed critical thinker, you are doing exactly what you claim the authors of those reports are doing, synthesizing meaning with your personal conception of the reported material. We all do this, you are no better at it than anyone else as long as you interpret the data according to your own frame of reference. Try being objective. If that doesn’t produce the desired effect, at least state the nature of the article, be it opinion, aggregated opinions or objective facts.

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