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The Fluoride Debate

The Adams County Record of Council, Idaho

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Fluoride is poison. It's a fact that is all over the Internet. And no one with any medical knowledge of the effects of fluoride on the human body can dispute that. It makes sense from a chemical perspective as well. When looking at the Periodic Table of Elements, fluorine is right above chlorine. They are in the same family, which also includes bromine and iodine, and all four of these elements ~are poisonous.

For example, chlorine is the main ingredient in bleach (Sodium Hypochlorite) which is extremely toxic, and is what many people turn to when they really want to clean their kitchen or their bathroom. Think about what we use to keep the water in public pools safe. Chlorine. And then there is Betadine, the active ingredient being 10% iodine, used as an antiseptic to kill germs on the surface of the skin before surgery.

Families in the Periodic Table are placed together because they have similar properties, and these four elements are poisonous. So if fluoride is so poisonous, then should we be putting it in our drinking water or include it as a supplement for developing children as we have in this country for the last 50 years? The answer is murky, but many people would still say, "YES."

Okay, so on the surface this doesn't make a lot of sense, so lets go a little deeper. When used as a supplement, fluoride is a compound which is usually fluorine combined with a metal. Examples would be stannous fluoride, sodium fluoride, and sodium mono-fluorophosphate ~ ingredients you might see on the side of a toothpaste tube.

Because fluoride occurs naturally in the groundwater in some areas, occasionally in very high amounts, scientists have been able to analyze the effects of various levels on the population. Studies have shown that when consumed, fluoride attaches to the body's hard tissues like the bones and the developing teeth. It becomes part of these tissues.

Regular, extremely high amounts of fluoride can lead to a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma of which there are about 400 new cases each year in the United States. It can also weaken bones and cause discoloration and pitting of the developing teeth, a process called fluorosis. A single large dose causes the immediate symptom of gastrointestinal upset. A dose of 5 grams per kilogram of body weight can be fatal.

Conversely, studies have also shown that a daily dose of 0.7 parts per million allows for fluoride to be incorporated into the developing tooth of a child causing this tooth to be much more resistant to the bacteria that cause tooth decay. It also makes teeth stronger. The amount needs to be at this low level to be effective because at 4 ppm teeth will have the potential for the first signs of fluorosis, and although they are very resistant to decay, they can be discolored and pitted.

Two-thirds of the drinking water in the United States includes fluoride at a level of 0.7 ppm with the idea being that it is easier for parents to make sure their children receive a daily fluoride dose this way. This has indeed been the case for the last 50 years. Because fluoride is not incorporated in fully developed teeth, the fluoridated water is not believed to have as much effect on the teeth of adults at this small amount. The decision to include fluoride in the water is made at the local level. In states like Oregon, it is illegal to have fluoride added to the water, as voters have decided against it as recently as 2014. Most countries in Europe do not fluoridate the water due to the demographics of an older population, and it is only provided as an additional supplement to children.

With the increased number of people gathering their news on the Internet, the fluoride debate has intensified of late. There are many new websites that proclaim the dangers of fluoride, and some have elected to not include this "toxic" supplement in their family's diet.

The interpretation of information through these websites focuses on several concerns. First, the possibility of cancer due to exposure of the body to foreign substances is always a worry. A great deal of information has been gathered at this point, and so far accredited studies have found no evidence of a correlation between fluoride and cancer at any amount close to 0.7 ppm, which is a 0.5 mg daily dose.

Second, it has also been proven that fluoridated water does pull aluminum from cookware, which can increase the levels of aluminum in food. As aluminum was, for a period, associated with increased rates of Alzheimer's disease, this seemed significant, but further studies over the last 10 years showed no association between aluminum and Alzheimer's.

Third, as rates continue to rise and no obvious reason validated, autism has also been suggested to be related to fluoride consumption, but no significant studies at this time have been able to draw a correlation.

The last major argument is that fluoride effects the enzymes in the body and leads to higher rates of autoimmune diseases where the body attacks itself. Rates of autoimmune diseases such as Celiacs Disease, Lupus Erythematosus, and Hoshimoto's Thyroiditis are on the rise in the United States, and people are searching for an explanation.

Fluoride's effect on enzymes in the mouth is the reason for its success on preventing decay. Fluoride inhibits enolase, an enzyme that allows sugar transport and whose inhibition prevents bacteria from turning sugar into acid. When sugar is not turned into acid by these bacteria, which is the case for people who have fluoride in their tooth enamel, they wind up with lower rates of tooth decay.

Other studies of fluoride on our body's enzymes in places other than the mouth are ongoing, but have not shown conclusive effects on any disease processes, including autoimmune diseases. Still, there is conjecture that any foreign substance added to the food supply may have a detrimental effect in some way, and for antifluoride groups, there is skepticism about fluoride as a longterm dietary supplement. You could say that some people have a "hunch" that fluoride causes more bad things than good. At the same time, study after study has shown with certainty that rates of dental decay since the introduction of fluoride supplements have dropped by 20 to 40 percent.

Consequently, despite the fact that fluoride has been proven to be beneficial to the health of teeth, it remains controversial in some circles. Antifluoride groups are very vocal, and more and more people choose not to use fluoride toothpastes or give these supplements to their children, as they worry about other potential long-term effects of chronic fluoride exposure.

For most Americans, fluoride is considered to be a silver bullet for preventing cavities in our "sugar is in everything" world. Meanwhile, some are certain it is actually a contaminant forced on two-thirds of this country. The question is, knowing how it helps teeth, and given what the studies have shown so far, do we want to eliminate fluoride from a child's diet?

It's true, we don't know everything about fluoride, but right now the information we do have would seem to suggest that ingesting the right amount of this "poison" is great for teeth and other possible harmful effects remain unproven.

Copyright 2015 The Adams County Record, Council, Idaho. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 11, 2015

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