Health

Fluoride in drinking water: Is it beneficial?

WRITTEN BY
09/02/22
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Fact Box

  • Fluorine, a 'nonmetallic, pale yellow-green gaseous element with a pungent odor' from which fluoride is derived, is the 13th most abundant element in the earth's crust.
  • The CDC reports that the community water fluoridation cost per capita ranges from '$0.11 to $24.38,' with annual benefits ranging from '$5.49 to $93.19.' 
  • According to fluoridealert.org, 377,655,000 people--or 5% of the global population-- drink artificially fluoridated water. 
  • Nursery water, 'a purified water with added fluoride that is processed by steam distillation,' has been marketed to be used by new mothers for 'mixing with infant formulas, diluting juices and as a good source of pure drinking water.'

Chad (No)

Adding fluoride to municipal drinking water supplies is not beneficial and should be stopped.  

Some early studies have shown that fluoride stops enzymatic processes that cause tooth decay and dental caries and, in small amounts, helps build tooth enamel in children. So, since the 1940s, it has been added to municipal drinking water. What wasn't taken into account was that topical use is better than ingestion.

Fluoride is a natural element derived from the weathering of rocks and is often already in groundwater used for drinking. Occasionally, levels are so high it needs to be removed. The WHO recommends a safe level of 1-1.5 ppm in drinking water. However, when adding it to supplies, managers don't consider the unique dietary needs of individual people. 

Consuming above the recommended dosage leads to tooth and bone decay as fluoride replaces calcium, resulting in a condition known as fluorosis. Fluorosis is a serious problem in many countries, such as China and India, where fluoride is naturally more abundant in drinking water.

Aside from its effects on dental health, too much fluoride is dangerous to overall health. Studies have shown that overconsumption during development is neurotoxic and decreases IQ in children. In adults, it accumulates in organs and other tissues and is even cytotoxic at higher levels.

There is no scientific consensus on how much fluoride, if any, to add to drinking water. Furthermore, these days there are so many other ways to get fluoride (toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.) for those who need it for dental issues. 

The risks of adding fluoride to drinking water far outweigh the benefits (slightly reducing tooth decay), and the practice should be ended. 


Ellery (Yes)

The CDC lists the fluoridation of drinking water as one of the ten great achievements of public health, and for a very good reason. 

Dental caries, more commonly known as tooth decay, is a dangerous bacterial disease that can cause holes in your teeth, severe pain, and even tooth loss. Luckily, it’s quite preventable, and fluoridation is the answer. 

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in many worldwide waterways, which scientists recognized as contributing to healthy teeth from as early as the 1800s. Experiments proving this in the 1930s led to tests in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and then widespread fluoridation--with the infrastructure serving 144 million Americans by 1999.

From time to time, however, concerns about the danger of over fluoridated water crop up. And it’s true--like most things, consuming excessive fluoride can be toxic, but while the occasional case does occur, it’s easily treatable.

Moreover, it’s incredibly rare. This isn’t some haphazard experiment; we’ve been fluoridating water as a society for nearly a century; technicians know the correct percentage of fluoride to add to water and have the monitoring tech to ensure it stays there.

Since fluoride reduces the chances of suffering a cavity by about 25%, it’s used in many products like toothpaste and mouthwash. However, the CDC recommends water fluoridation over other intake methods, as it is the best way to reduce tooth decay in as many people as possible. Because fluoridated water comes with no additional cost to low-income groups, unlike any other fluoridated products, it saves money for families and the US healthcare system overall.

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