About Those Fluoridated Water Skeptics

By Keith Kloor | July 9, 2014 4:37 pm

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has vibrated the internet with a whacky speech he recently gave to an audience of climate skeptics. Here’s the bit that many are picking up on:

“I don’t know whether or not fluoridating the water helps people’s teeth become better or not,” said Rohrabacher, invoking his childhood memories. “I don’t know that,” he continued, “But I do know that in this country, we should be the ones who should be deciding what we put into our bodies one way or the other, not the federal government or the local government putting fluoride into our water!”

The water fluoridation screed elicited support from the crowd.

Okay, so we learned something new today about the Heartland crowd. They should consider holding their next climate skeptic conference in Portland, or this village in Palm Beach, Florida.

But back to the GOP congressman and his problem with fluoridated water. Wonkette asks:

What is it with Republicans and really fucked up ideas about drinking water, anyway?

Cute. The problem with this logic, however, is that plenty of liberals have a similar disdain for fluoride. As one famous Portlander tweeted last year, referring to a subset of progressive Democrats:

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, science
  • Tom Scharf

    Yeah I was going to say chemophobia seems to be more of a foodie type thing with overlaps with other groups. Not sure but I think fluoridated water doesn’t help if you already use fluoridated toothpaste. When it was debated in my county it was a budget issue, not a fear based debate, but there were some whackos who were quoted extensively in the media. Fluoridation prevailed after being shut down for a short period.

    • sean daniels

      i am against any government forced supplementation – be it food folate fortification or water fluoridation. there has been chewable fluoride tablets for topical application and some minor systemic, and this is all you need (on an as needed basis), plus you can rinse w/ fluoride and spit out. the idea that we are too stupid to figure this out ourselves and need fluoride put in word is insulting.

      • Skip Nordenholz

        Florid occurs naturally in water, water fluoridation is about controlling the amount of florid in the water, sometimes this means adding it, sometimes this mean removing it. Do you object to it being removed from water, how much florid should be left in the water, if none, what other stuff should they remove from water. If you want distilled water you can get that. Or perhaps they should do nothing to the water, people can boil the water themselves to kill pathogens, and distill it themselves if necessary. Nothing we eat or drink is pure, if you want pure you have to create it in a laboratory.

        • 1875

          Silly argument Skip. A number of chemicals are used to purify the water. Nobody is suggesting water isn’t purified. Fluoride chemicals play no role in water purification. Fluoride is added to treat the person, not the water. That is why people object to it. Also the largest study conducted in the US found no significant difference in teeth between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities.

          • Michelle Surname-Pending

            Skip is ignorant. Yes fluride occurrs naturally but what is flurodation of the water? It is the addition of hydroflurosilic acid. Delivered straight from a pesticide factory DIRECTLY into your drinking water. With comiplements.

          • JH

            Delivered from a pesticide factory? OMG! If only it were hydroflurosilic acid delivered from a chemical factory, oh, I’d feel so much better about it!

          • Michelle Surname-Pending

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfiCP3HYxFg

            This is an Australian documentary featuring many Australian health care professionals, legitimate documents and details how Victoria’s water supply is treated.

  • senseandnonsense

    When I was a child, fluoridation of the water was not opposed as a general health danger. Instead, it was opposed as a Commie plot to destroy our essence. For more information, go to Dr. Strangelove.

    • Janet Nagel

      Old news, sense&. But it’s had the amazing and enduring effect (unintended, I think) of convincing people that if you support fluoridation you are sane and smart. Nothing could be further from the truth. George Orwell is smiling at the way so many credulous souls have been hoodwinked in real life.

      If a hundred million people believe a falsehood, it’s still a falsehood. If 99 out of a hundred doctors believe a falsehood, it’s still a falsehood.

  • Paul Gerber

    Fluoridation has many benefits, probably enough to overlook its potential pitfalls. However, I admit I am concerned about the long term effects of exposure to fluorides because I am aware of how exceedingly dangerous and nasty Hydrofluoric Acid is, and the possibility that it is being created even in parts per billion makes me very uneasy. Hydrofluoric Acid does not burn the skin, it permeates through the skin and destroys live tissue inside the body, particularly lungs and corneas. Its effects are permanent and cumulative, so even minute ongoing doses can eventually lead to debilitation and death. Look it up for yourself. It’s scary as hell, and can be formed when fluoridated products are digested.
    My advice: NEVER swallow any fluoridated toothpaste or mouth rinse. And try to minimize the fluoridated tap water you drink.

    • WilliamAshbless

      My dentist prescribed me extra strong fluoride toothpaste with 5% fluoride – way stronger than is available OTC. She recommended me to not wash my mouth out after brushing. That more or less, guarantees the fluoride will be absorbed into my body – in large amounts. I trust her. I think she knows a lot more about teeth and dentistry than Paul Gerber. Indeed Paul’s so pig ignorant of science that he can’t distinguish acid from salt (namely hydrofluoric acid / sodium fluoride).

      • Janet Nagel

        Your dentist may know about your teeth but she doesn’t know about the rest of your body. Fluoride breaks the hydrogen bonds in your DNA, displaces iodine in your thyroid and calcium in your bones, accumulates in the pineal gland, increases inflammation, inhibits nerve cells and the ameloblasts that produce dental enamel. In acute poisoning, fluoride binds up blood calcium causing tetany. Some believe oral fluoride treatments reduce decay in patients on chemotherapy. Is that the case with you, William? Otherwise you might want to think again about putting so much fluoride in your blood stream to circulate throughout your body on a regular basis.

        As someone who knows about chemistry you are aware, of course, that fluorine is one of the four halogens and is the most reactive of all the elements in the periodic table. It corrodes metal and etches glass. You also know that fluorine only occurs naturally in compounds, some of which are fairly stable and some of which are not. The fickle fluorine ion is always seeking another element to bond with. That is why it can have so many different undesirable effects in the body.

        • WilliamAshbless

          Fluoride:
          * breaks the hydrogen bonds in your DNA
          * displaces iodine in your thyroid
          * displaces .. calcium in your bones

          Please post links for all 3 of those claims, explaining a mechanism by which it supposedly happens, and a link to research showing it to happen. I suspect you know nothing of chemistry. “fluorine is one of the four halogens and is the most reactive of all the elements in the periodic table”. It is not the most reactive of all elements. 1) A fluorine atom has a high tendency to form the fluoride ion – so it is fluorine which is reactive not fluoride. 2) The most reactive elements are the alkali metal elements – the heavier the element the more reactive. 3) Once formed into an ion reactive elements form the most stable salts, and fluoride is fluorine in its salt form.

          • Ima Skeptic

            From the Lancet Medical Journal, March 2014.
            “Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity”
            http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(13)70278-3/fulltext#article_upsell

            “Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence. Since 2006, epidemiological studies have documented six additional developmental neurotoxicants—manganese, FLUORIDE, chlorpyrifos…

            To control the pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity, we propose a global prevention strategy.”

            I suppose you think fluoride is just great for infants or children’s developing brain?

          • Ima Skeptic

            Does fluoride cause or contribute to cancer?

            On PubMed.gov
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9002384
            “Relationship between fluoride concentration in drinking water and mortality rate from uterine cancer in Okinawa prefecture, Japan”

            “The Okinawa Islands located in the southern-most part of Japan were under U.S. administration from 1945 to 1972. During that time, fluoride was added to the drinking water supplies in most regions. The relationship between fluoride concentration in drinking water and uterine cancer mortality rate was studied in 20 municipalities of Okinawa and the data were analyzed using correlation and multivariate statistics. A significant positive correlation was found between fluoride concentration in drinking water and uterine cancer mortality in 20 municipalities.”

          • Ima Skeptic

            The LD50 level of a chemical compound is what is takes to kill 50% of the population.

            LD50 level for “calcium fluoride” is 4250 mg/kg
            LD50 level for “hexafluorosilicic acid” is 70 mg/kg
            LD50 level for “sodium fluoride” is 52-200 mg/kg

            They are using either hexafluorosilicic acid or sodium fluoride instead of naturally occurring calcium fluoride for water fluoridation. Do you see a difference in the toxicity levels of these compounds? What’s with the bait and switch?

        • Michael Phillips

          I noticed you switched from fluoride in paragraph 1 to fluorine in paragraph 2. Fluorine and fluoride are not the same thing, just like chlorine and chloride are not the same thing. Conflating those two is pretty dishonest. Was it intentional or just a mistake?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

    I personally think the reason fluoride is demonized is because it is FREE medicine that benefits hundreds of millions with so little effort that the powers at be cant stand it. But obviously its no miracle drug because it is still in use, but just look what they did with the STAP stem cell discovery, inexpensive fixes that benefit the masses are condemned in this insane backwards world.

    • Janet Nagel

      Ya think, Longmire?

  • 1875

    Fluoride is one of the most highly toxic substances in our environment today even more so than lead. It is extremely effective in pesticides and rodentcides. The US Environmental Protection Agency says fluoride has substantial evidence for developmental neurotoxicity. Would you want to drink more lead? Well fluoride is more toxic than lead and only slightly less lethal than arsenic. For decades they said lead was safe but now as we know it has been removed from petrol and paint etc.

    For those of you who are unsure about fluoride and don’t have much time, do a search for the online video “Professional Perspectives on Water Fluoridation”. It’s 28 min long and really well worth watching. It
    features a Nobel Laureate in Medicine,scientists from the National Research Council review on fluoride as well as dentists and doctors.

    “Fluorine and fluorides can act as direct cellular poisons by interfering with calcium metabolism and enzyme mechanisms.” (Handbook of Poisoning: Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment, 11th Edition, 1983.)

    “Fluoride is an enzyme poison, in the same class as cyanide, oxalate, or azide … it is capable of a very wide variety of harmful effects, even at low doses.” (James B. Patrick, Ph.D., antibiotics research scientist.)

    “Yes, fluoride is an (enzyme) inhibitor. You are right in the implication that when it comes to certain patients, it is important that they do not have fluoride in the water.” (Dr. Harold Loe, National Institute of Dental Research, to a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, 1989.)

    • JH

      You’re never going to convince anyone with silly quotes like that.

      a) Every chemical is destructive in the right concentration and form – even oxygen. What’s more, it’s patently obvious to the that fluoridated water isn’t killing or poisoning anyone. Or is it conspiracy to hide the fact that fluoride is a KILLERRRRRRR !!!!!???? :)

      b/c) Quotes from two doctors? I can find a doctor to say just about anything.

      • Janet Nagel

        Everyone agrees that fluoridation causes dental fluorosis, now seen in over 40% of American young people. Dental fluorosis is the result of poisoning of the enamel-producing cells during the years of tooth formation. It is visible evidence of low-level fluoride poisoning. Maybe you should do a little more digging, JH, before you continue to swallow the fluoridation myth.

        • JH

          “Everyone agrees that fluoridation causes dental fluorosis,”

          “now seen in over 40% of American young people”

          a) an aesthetic condition caused by many things besides drinking water, including swallowing toothpaste or mouthwash.

          b) 37% of which have questionable to mild fluorosis

          Maybe you should own up to what a crummy case you have and move on to something important.

          • Ima Skeptic

            Dental fluorosis is dental damage due to chronic overexposure to fluoride from all sources regardless of how anyone tries to spin it.

  • http://www.fluoridation.webs.com/ nyscof

    Besides setting up a disastrous precedent, as specialists are now clambering for lithium and cholesterol-busting drugs to be added to water supplies, fluoridation is one of the biggest public health blunders of all time

    Simply put, modern science disproved all theories upon which fluoridation was sold to us in 1945:

    They told us fluoridation was only for kids whose teeth were still forming under the gums because residents of naturally calcium fluoridated areas had good teeth and fluoride-caused discolored teeth ( dental fluorosis.) They didn’t consider it was the tooth-required nutrient calcium that was the cavity preventing hero while the fluoride was just the tooth mottling villain.

    Now, the CDC admits that fluoride ingestion does not reduce tooth decay. This is one of the reasons that government, health and dental organizations newly advise that babies not be routinely fed fluoridated water mixed into their infant formula. Fluoridation protectionists will rarely tell you this. Dental fluorosis is a growing problem with up to 60% of adolescents afflicted with fluorosis although 51% of them still have tooth decay.

    At the time when vitamins and minerals were discovered to be essential to prevent diseases, dentists thought they had their magic bullet in fluoride. They told us fluoride was an essential nutrient to prevent tooth decay. But that is not true because consuming a fluoride-free diet does not prevent tooth decay.

    They told us ingesting sodium fluoride or hydrofluosilicic acid via the water supply was as safe as calcium fluoridated water but they have no studies to prove that.. They said all fluoride was the same. But that is not true because calcium fluoride is less toxic than sodium fluoride or hydrofluosiclicic acid. In fact, calcium is the antidote for fluoride poisoning.

    No American needs fluoridation. Organized dentistry needs fluoridation to protect its political viability. Phosphate fertilizer companies need fluoridation as a market to sell tlheir tainted waste products. Corporations need fluoridation’s image protected to protect their own multi-billion dollar international sales of fluoridated toothpaste, varnish, foams, mouthrinses, pills, drops, etc.

    Governments need to protect fluoridation, because if they admit they are wrong, they will lose all credibility on more important issues (in their minds) like vaccination, flu shots etc.

    Bottom line: After 7 decades of fluoridation, the US is facing a serious dental health crisis that is similar to that of some third wold countries

  • johndmac

    All the guy said was, “I don’t know whether or not fluoridating the water helps people’s teeth become better or not.” Even the CDC Dept. of Oral Health agrees that swallowing fluoridated water is not likely to reduce tooth decay:

    “The concentration of fluoride in ductal saliva, as it is secreted from salivary glands, is low – approximately 0.016 parts per million (ppm) in areas where drinking water is fluoridated and 0.006 ppm in nonfluoridated areas. This concentration of fluoride is not likely to affect cariogenic activity.”

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Water fluoridation devastated general practice dentistry for eliminating juvenile dental caries. SSRI “antidepressants” are shaking rattles and beads for behavior, but they do globally cause dry mouth – hence everybody carrying a bottle of unfluoridated water, plus shoving it in their kids. Kids’ teeth are again rotting big time (ADD meds behaviorally castrating young males cause dry mouth). All is well with the American Dental Association.

    • Michelle Surname-Pending

      Conversely, too much fluoride causes dental fluorosis. Fluorosis rated have soared in the last 20 years. It disturbs the development of enamel.

      • Ima Skeptic

        Overexposure to fluoride can also lead to a loss of teeth in adulthood. This was known back in the 1930′s. Why are dentists recommending a substance that can destroy teeth to protect teeth?

        See “Comparative Toxicity of Fluorine Compounds”.

        Dental fluorosis: “Mottled teeth are not only disfiguring in appearance but are so defective in structure and strength that they often have to be replaced by false teeth at an early age.” When did this fact change?

        http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ie50295a026

        • David Roberts

          Maybe the facts didn’t change, maybe you’re just missing others to put them in perspective?

          For example, an LD50 is only half the equation. What about the therapeutic dose? How much water would you have to drink to come anywhere near the LD50 over what time period?
          You cite the hazards of dental fluorosis without any indication of severity with relation to therapeutic dose. Am I to understand that all the people with fluorosis now have false teeth or is there a quantity of fluorosis with a negligible effect on tooth structure and strength? What is the severity associated with fluoridated water?

      • Ima Skeptic

        Also see PubMed:
        “[Fluorine as a factor in premature aging]. ”
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16892576

        “Dental fluorosis during tooth growth and loss of dentition (tooth loss) in adulthood are two consequences of chronic intoxication with fluorine compounds.”

  • questions

    I would love it if this post presented sound arguments for and/or against fluoridation. Why doesn’t it?

    • JH

      Because it’s not a post about the +/- of fluoride. It’s a post about people who take an “anti-science” position on one issue and then scream about people who take an “anti-science” position on a different issue. It’s about people who hate climate skeptics but love GMO “skeptics”. It’s about people who hate creationists because creationism is anti-science, yet go on to complain that fluoride in the water is a commie plot to make us all socialist zombies.

      • Michelle Surname-Pending

        how is it anti science?

  • Ima Skeptic

    It’s a bio accumulative rat poison that has now contaminated the whole food and beverages supply of the USA. Even Harold Hodge knew they were using a rat poison.

    “Appointed initially in biochemistry, Hodge pursued dental research including the toxicity of fluoride, as there was a huge stigma against using fluoride for the public health. (It was, after all, a RAT POISON.) ”

    http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/53/2/157.full

    And we allow our children to bathe, shower, and swim in this stuff.

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Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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