Fluoride in drinking water

Municipal water suppliers began adding fluoride to the water in the 1940s to improve the dental health of their customers (Gessner, Beller, Middaugh, & Whitford, 1994; Hausen, 2000). Chemical additives that reach the taps in homes has long been controversial. One very good reason for concern for customers of water suppliers that add fluoride to tap water is that suppliers seem to have very inadequate control over the amount of fluoride that flows from the tap.

Simple fluoride poisoning manifests as tingling or numbness in the extremities, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain (Gessner et al., 1994).  Since at least the 1980s, assertions of a connection between drinking water fluoridation and bone cancer, particularly among children and adolescents have led to scientific studies, which seem to consistently provide no statistical support for the assertions (Levy & Leclerc, 2012). While Whiting, McDonagh, and Kleijnen (2001) found scientific studies looking at a possible relationship between fluoridation and Down’s Syndrome to be inconclusive, Lowry, Steen, and Rankin (2003), in a study in the north of England, found no statistically significant relationship between fluoridation and congenital defects.

Whether a consumer wants fluoride in their drinking water or not appears to depend on what result the consumer wants. Fluoride, in proper concentrations, does seem to improve dental health. Fluoride may have undesired consequences, but clear support for those assertions seems lacking. However, for consumers who want fluoride removed, whole home filtration using alumina or reverse osmosis are available.

References

Gessner, B. D., Beller, M., Middaugh, J. P., & Whitford, G. M. (1994). Acute fluoride poisoning from a public water system. The New England Journal of Medicine, 330(2), 95-99.

Hausen, H. W. (2000, October 7). Fluoridation, fractures, and teeth. BMJ: British Medical Journal (International Edition). p. 844.

Levy, M., & Leclerc, B. (2012). Fluoride in drinking water and osteosarcoma incidence rates in the continental united states among children and adolescents. Cancer Epidemiology, 36(2), e83-8. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.canep.2011.11.008

Mahoney, M. C., Nasca, P. C., Burnett, W. S., & Melius, J. M. (1991). Bone Cancer Incidence Rates in New York State: Time Trends and Fluoridated Drinking Water. American Journal Of Public Health, 81(4), 475-479.

Suarez-Almazor, M. E., Flowerdew, G., Saunders, L. D., Soskolne, C. L., & Russell, A. S. (1993). The Fluoridation of Drinking Water and Hip Fracture Hospitalization Rates in Two Canadian Communities. American Journal Of Public Health, 83(5), 689-693.

Whiting, P., McDonagh, M., & Kleijnen, J. (2001). Association of Down’s syndrome and water fluoride level: a systematic review of the evidence. BMC Public Health, 16-8.