fluoride UK mapBirmingham – together with only 10% of the UK’s population – accepted the expense of adding fluoride to its water supplies in 1964. Scientific research gives cause for concern on several counts.

Thyroid malfunction

An article in the Birmingham Mail (Feb 2015) referred to research published in the BMJ, which found that medical practices located in the West Midlands (a wholly fluoridated area) are nearly twice as likely to report high hypothyroidism prevalence in comparison to Greater Manchester (non-fluoridated area). Lead author Professor Stephen Peckham, from the Centre for Health Service Studies (University of Kent), said: “The finding of this cross-sectional study has important implications for public health policy in the UK and in other countries where fluoride is added to drinking water or in other forms such as fluoridated milk and salt”.

Childhood cognitive impairment

A year earlier the Lancet had published Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity by Dr Philippe Grandjean and Philip J Landrigan, MD, which listed fluoride as one of eleven neurotoxicants affecting millions of children worldwide. The abstract pointed out that industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for the rise in the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affecting millions of children worldwide.

Effect of fluoride accumulation on bone structure over many years fluorosis dental

Fifteen years ago a link with hip fracture was published – though classified as low risk – in the Lancet: ”There is a low risk of hip fracture for people ingesting fluoride in drinking water at concentrations of about 1ppm. This low risk should not be a reason for withholding fluoridation of water supplies”.

In 2001, a year later, the World Health Organisation reported that the dental effects of fluorosis develop much earlier than the skeletal effects in people exposed to large amounts of fluoride. Clinical dental fluorosis is characterized by staining and pitting of the teeth. More seriously: “Chronic high-level exposure to fluoride can lead to skeletal fluorosis. In skeletal fluorosis, fluoride accumulates in the bone progressively over many years. The early symptoms of skeletal fluorosis, include stiffness and pain in the joints. In severe cases, the bone structure may change and ligaments may calcify, with resulting impairment of muscles and pain”. Though stiffness, joint pain and hip fractures are common in this country, severe cases of skeletal fluorosis are rarely seen in UK and US.

The effects of cumulative fluoride intake

An American environmental health journal records that no systematic research has considered the effects of combined cumulative fluoride intake from all significant sources. Several published studies in the past decade have measured only the daily intake rates of fluoride from various sources such as diet (especially ‘economy’ tea, which the NHS advises should be consumed in moderation) fluoridated toothpaste, dental care products and infant formula (including Fomon et al. 2000; Jackson et al. 2002).

eu dg public health header

A report by the European Commission Directorate-General, set up to protect and improve public health, records that fluoride from treated drinking water, food and dental products accumulates in the bones and kidneys but only in 20% of the plasma in the central nervous system.

It records that approximately 99% of the fluoride in the human body is found in bones and teeth. The level of fluoride in bone is influenced by several factors including age, past and present fluoride intake, and the rate of bone turnover. Soft tissues do not accumulate fluoride, but a higher concentration has been reported for the kidney due to the partial re-absorption. The blood-brain barrier limits the diffusion of fluoride into the central nervous system, where the fluoride level is only about 20% that of plasma.

Enough time has now passed to warrant an assessment of all the long-term effects of ingesting fluoride from drinking water, food and fluoridated dental products.