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The Health Risks of Fluoride in the Water

Fluoride reduces teeth decay, promoting worldwide fluoridation of public water supplies. While it may have some benefits, there are also concerns over some possible health risks of fluoride in drinking water.

Mind Body By Meenakshi Chaudhary / Mar 15, 2015


Fluorides are compounds that combine the element fluorine with another substance, usually a metal such as sodium fluoride and stannous fluoride. Fluorides are absorbed into the blood through the digestive tract from where they travel through the blood to areas that are high in calcium such as bones and teeth. There is some amount of naturally occurring fluorides in soil, air, or water.

Fluoridation of Water

Fluoridation of water may sound like a test-lab phenomenon however it is the process of adding fluoride to public water supply to reduce  decay. The fluoride in the water slows down damage to the enamel during cavities. Several countries around the world add fluoride of their public water supply following the guidelines set by WHO. Image Courtesy: wikimedia.org

Why Add Fluoride to Water?

Water fluoridation began as a public health measure to reduce teeth decay during the 20th century. It has been considered as one of the top public health achievements; however, there are also several concerns about the risks involved in excess amount of fluoride in the body. Today, a person gets fluoride through several sources other than fluoridated water. Several beverages, food items, and most oral care products, including toothpastes and mouth rinses contain fluoride in them.

Health Risks

There are concerns that too much fluoride exposures may be contributing to chronic health problems, such as bone disorders, thyroid disease, low intelligence, dementia, and diabetes, particularly in people who are most vulnerable to fluoride’s effects.


According to a recent survey, about 40% of American teenagers have a condition called dental fluorosis, a defect of tooth enamel caused by fluoride’s interference with the tooth-forming cells. It is worth noting that American people drink more amount of fluoridated water than what is consumed in any other country.

Risks for Babies

It is recommended that babies consume only up to 10 micrograms of fluoride per day which is almost equal to what is provided by the breast milk. However, infants get up to around 1000 micrograms of fluoride from formula food prepared with fluoridated tap water. This higher exposure to fluoride can increase the risk for dental fluorosis in infants. Researchers recommend that formula food for infants not be prepared with fluoridated water.

Lower IQ

A 2012 study from Harvard University found that brain can be affected by fluoride toxicity, resulting in lower IQ level. Although the researchers were not sure about the significance of the evidences however they strongly mentioned that even the possibility of impact of fluoride on the brain cannot be ignored. Researchers are planning to research on this further.

Cancer Risk

Several studies have also looked at the possible link between fluoride and cancer. Researchers have observed uncertain evidence of cancer-causing abilities of fluoridated water in male rats. Rats who were given higher amount of fluoridated water had higher cases of bone cancer. However, there was no such evidence in female rats or mice of any gender. Image Courtesy: Getty


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