FLUORIDE - The Dangers
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I'm sure that you, like me, are concerned with the health of your family. I make sure my children drink lots of water (especially since we live in a hot climate) and brush their teeth at least twice a day. Now I've found out that I may have been subjecting them to a toxic substance! A reader of this column recently alerted me to the dangers of fluoride. Maybe you were aware of the controversy, but I was not. Now I am!
Fluoride has been a staple of good dental hygiene for years. The pediatrician always asked me if my baby girl was drinking enough water and when he worried that she was not ingesting enough fluoride, he prescribed supplements to take with her baby vitamins. Now, the evidence points to a list of odious ailments that can be caused by too much fluoride:
Dental fluorosis - mottled and brittle teeth. (A recent study found that 22 percent or more of U.S. children have this.)
Studies are ongoing to substantiate all of these claims, but if it is proved like so many expect it to be, then the Safe Drinking Water Act will require the level of fluoride to be zero. At that time, fluoridation will need to be stopped. This will be tougher for communities to do where the water is naturally fluoridated.
Excessive fluoride has even been linked to increased lead absorption. This means that if a child is exposed to lead and has fluoride, she can suffer severe lead poisoning. (We all know about the terrifying effects of lead poisoning.)
Dartmouth College conducted a survey of over 280,000 Massachusetts children and found that chemicals (such as fluoride) used in public water supplies increased the children's absorption of lead. The study showed that in communities where fluoride was added to the water, the amount of lead absorbed in the body was much higher.
The reader who warned me of this silent danger wrote: "My family of five had the misfortune to be poisoned by fluoride in our hometown. We suffered from symptoms including: chronic fatigue, sore muscles, aching joints, chronic stomach pain, memory deficits, obsessive compulsive disorder, vitiligo, hyperactivity, hives and skin rashes. We put this theory to the test several times. We would get the symptoms when we drank the water, and they receded when we switched to non-fluoridated water. The water utility would not admit to anything, and this is not something that can be figured out by doctors. It took us two years to figure out that we had been poisoned by fluoride "
How much is too much? Fifty years ago, when fluoride was first recommended for city water supplies, the "optimum" dose of one part per million (PPM) was set. If a person drank four glasses of water he would receive that amount. That requirement has not changed, but what has changed is our diet. Did you know that we get fluoride from many sources? If your child had only one Coke, a glass of milk and a bowl of cereal, she would be getting 230 percent of the recommended daily dose!
Today most foods are made with fluoridated water, and crops are sprayed with fluoridated water, which is absorbed into the plant. Experts say that when you add just one glass of fluoridated tap water to that, it will send your child's fluoride levels off the chart.
A senior biologist at the Environmental Protection Agency said: "Fluoride is considered a drug because it produces a chemical change in the body. The problem with putting it in the water supply is the unprecedented unregulated dosage. Some children drink a lot more water than others, along with other fluoridated foods and drinks "
The Center for Disease Control is said to be calling for new labeling rules requiring manufacturers to list a product's fluoride content. Some grape juices have a fluoride content of more than 1.7 parts per million, compared with one part per million in tap water. Teas have between two and ten parts per million. Soft drinks and juices that are bottled in areas where the public water supply is fluoridated also contain fluoride.
How are the authorities responding? The American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatrics now recommend infants avoid fluoridated water and not use fluoridated toothpaste before age two.
Dr. Nicholas Hether of Gerber Foods said in a report: The incidence of fluorosis (mottled teeth) has increased in the U.S. over the last 20 years. This increased incidence, coupled with the widespread potential for multiple sources of fluoride in the diet, has prompted the ADA and AAP to revise their recommendations for fluoride supplementation." (I was told that Gerber is no longer using fluoridated water in their products.)
A report by National Federation of Federal Employees, which consists of professionals at EPA headquarters, stated: "Our members' review of the body of evidence over the last eleven years, indicates a causal link between fluoride and cancer, genetic damage, and neurological impairment Of particular concern are studies linking fluoride exposure to lower IQ in children."
What about the toothpaste? Amazingly, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry published a news release that stated: "Children with educated parents who typically have better oral hygiene practices are at risk for fluorosis . It was found in 69 percent of children from high socioeconomic status families whose parents had college degrees and lived in fluoridated communities Using fluoridated toothpaste on children under age two increases their fluorosis risk, and fluoride supplements are often over-prescribed "
What about the other side of this controversy? Proponents say that tooth decay is less in communities with fluoridation than those without it and that fluoridation is the safest and most cost-effective method of reducing tooth decay in a community. In 1991, a U.S. Public Health Services Ad Hoc Subcommittee said: "The collective body of information derived from more than 50 studies in different populations shows no credible association between fluoridation and the risk of cancer "
Many dentists still stand firm behind fluoride, but the number of experts opposing it is steadily growing. Dr. Balch, a well-known author of health books, wrote in Ten Natural Remedies to Save Your Life. "Fluoride, long thought to be an important preventative of tooth decay is a complete poison. No long-term studies have linked fluoridated water with stronger bones and teeth. Instead, there have been indications of links to damaged and mottled teeth, as well as to health problems like osteomalacia and osteoporosis. In fact, there is some evidence of a higher than normal incidence of Down's syndrome and cancer in some communities with a higher than average amount of fluoridation."
So what can we do about this if we don't want to wait for more dire findings? Thirty-six cities have been successful in having fluoridation removed from their local water. You can verbalize your concern, write to your congressman if you like, and of course, take care of your family. My feeling is that mottled teeth sounds bad enough, but if there's any chance at all of contracting serious disease from fluoride, then why risk it?
When I asked Dr. Balch if bottled water was safe, he said: "Use distilled water for drinking and cooking. (You can add lemon or flavoring to improve the taste). Some water filtration systems, such as distillation units or reverse osmosis systems may do an adequate job of decreasing the hazards in your tap water.
"Some bottled waters are safe, but you have to know what the ingredients are. Drinking water is still very important to good health, but don't trust the tap water " [I'm going to research bottled water companies to see which ones offer the most pure water without the fluoride. I'll share it with you when I get the results.]
One more thing to worry about!
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