If you rely on tap water as your primary source of drinking water, you are probably aware that a lot of chemicals are added to the potable water supply to make it safe for human consumption.
Raw water supplied from catchments is usually treated at filtration plants via several processes including coagulation, flocculation, filtration and disinfection.
Disinfection processes include adding free chlorine and monochloramine, and fluoride is added as required by the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1957. Treated water is then transported to reservoirs from where it is distributed to homes and local businesses. And this is the water that comes out of your tap.
Fluoride is added at the end of water treatment. The main reason fluoride was originally introduced into public water supply is because health authorities claimed it helped to prevent tooth decay (Featherstone 1999; Singh & Spencer 2004).
However, according to USPHS (1991), there is no discernible difference in tooth decay between countries that fluoridate their water and those that do not.
The fluoride that is added to our tap water supply is a toxic byproduct from the phosphate fertilizer and aluminum industry and is technically classified as toxic waste (Chandrajith & Dissanayake 2009; Thomas 2013).
Consuming fluoridated water has been linked in numerous studies to a variety of adverse health effects, including brain damage, lower IQ in children (from exposure in the womb), hyperactivity and/or lethargy, thyroid disorders, arthritis, dementia, bone fractures and bone cancer (osteosarcoma), neurobehavioural deficits and foetal brain damage (US National Research Council 2006; Choi et al 2012; Bashash et al 2017). It has been suggested that because fluoride accumulates in the brain (in high levels in the pineal gland), it has the ability to affect the most important anticancer hormone in our body – melatonin.
The later has numerous functions from regulating our sleep-wake cycles, moods, behaviours, immune function as well as onset of puberty (Council NR 2007; Srinivasan et al 2014).
A recent systematic review of 150 studies on water fluoridation found significant association between fluoride levels in drinking water and dental fluorosis
(Iheozor-Ejiofor et al 2015).
Fluoride is a known neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor that US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) defines as a drug when used to prevent disease, because unlike the minerals we need (e.g. calcium), humans have no known physiological requirement for fluoride (Department of Health and Human Services 2000). Most European countries do not fluoridate their drinking water supply based on the idea that it is unethical to mass medicate the population with a pharmaceutical drug (Bijlsma 2018).
Health authorities maintain that small concentrations of certain contaminants in our drinking water supply (such as heavy metals, chlorine and fluoride to name a few) do not constitute a health hazard as long as they comply with ADWG (Australian Drinking Water Guidleines) levels. However, the ADWG ignore the synergistic effects arising from the interaction of metals with fluoride to form toxic complexes such as aluminium fluoride, which is readily absorbed in the gut, and can cross the blood brain barrier (Varner et al 1998).
Furthermore, it has been shown that most of these chemicals work by disrupting the endocrine system and have the potential to reap metabolic havoc at extremely small exposures - orders of magnitude below recognised safety levels (Cohen 2015).
What Can We Do About It?
As always, the first step in dealing with any health hazard is eliminating the source of exposure. The three types of filters that can remove fluoride from the water are reverse osmosis, distillation and activated alumina filters (Bijlsma 2018). Filtering tap water by reverse osmosis will effectively remove not only fluoride, but also pesticides, petrochemicals, chlorine and its by-products, asbestos as well as toxic metals like lead, copper, chromium and cadmium That is why this type of filter is often recommended by Building Biologists if you are on municipal water supply.
Avoid products with added fluoride or made with fluoridated water, such as soft drinks, bottled water, tinned fish and canned foods, non-organic fruits & vegetables (due to the spraying of herbicides and pesticides). Eat as much fresh, unprocessed and unpackaged food as possible. Avoid cooking dishes that use Teflon (pans, baking dishes, pots etc). Don't get fluoride dental treatments from the dentist, and don't let you child swallow fluoridated toothpaste. Avoid fluoridated salt.
If you need help choosing a water filter, contact your local Building Biologist.
Healthier Home one step at a time!
Bashash, M., Thomas, D., Hu, H., Martinez-Mier, E.A., et al. 2017, ‘Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Cognitive Outcomes in Children at 4 and 6–12 Years of Age in Mexico’, Environ. Health Perspect., vol. 125, issue 9, DOI:10.1289/EHP655.
Bijlsma, N. 2018, Healthy Home, Healthy Family, 3rd ed., Australian College of Environmental Studies, Melbourne, Australia.
Chandrajith, R. & Dissanayake, C. 2009, ‘Phosphate mineral fertilizers, trace metals and human health’. Journal of the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka, vol.37.
Choi, A. L, Sun, G., Zhang, Y. & Grandjean, P. 2012. ‘Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Sys tematic Review and Meta-Analysis’, Environ Health Perspect., vol. 120, no. 10, pp. 1362-1368.
Cohen, M. 2015, The Ten Toxic Truths, (Online), Available: https://www.organicgardener.com.au/blogs/ten-toxic-truths (1 April 2018).
Council NR 2007, Fluoride in drinking water: a scientific review of EPA’s standards, National Academies Press.
Department of Health and Human Services 2000, Fluoride is a drug, not a nutrient, (On
line), Available: http://www.fluoridealert.org/wp-content/uploads/fda-2000a.pdf (1 April 2018).
Featherstone, J.D. 1999, ‘Prevention and reversal of dental caries: role of low level fluoride’, Community Dent Oral Epidemiol., vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 31-40.
Iheozor-Ejiofor, Z., Worthington, H.V., Walsh, T. et al. 2015, ‘Water fluoridation for the prevention of dental caries’, The Cochrane database of systematic reviews.
Singh, K.A. & Spencer, A.J. 2004, ‘Relative effects of pre- and post-eruption water fluo ride on caries experience by surface type of permanent first molars’, Community Dent Oral Epi- demiol., vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 435-446.
Srinivasan, V., Brzezinski, A., Oter, S. & Shilcutt, S.D. 2014, ‘Melatonin and melatonergic drugs in clinical practice’, Springer.
Thomas, S. 2013, ‘Rethinking the risks and benefits of fluoridation’, Environmental Science and Engineering Magazine.
U.S. National research Council of the Academies 2006, Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards, The National Academies of Press, (Online), Available: https:// www.nap.edu/read/11571/chapter/1 (1 April 2018).
Varner, J. A., Jensen, K. F., Horvath, W. & Isaacson, R. L. 1998, ‘Chronic administration of aluminum– fluoride or sodium–fluoride to rats in drinking water: Alterations in neuronal and cerebrovascular integrity’, Brain Research, vol. 784, pp. 284–298.