Fluoride: Cavities & Hypothyroidism

Fluoride is most effective when applied topically to the surface of the teeth. Therefore, it seems unnecessary for over 3/4 of U.S. tap water to contain the chemical for consumption. Fluoride was introduced in the 1940’s as a tap water additive because it helps kill cavity-causing bacteria on people’s teeth. However, none of our body’s biological processes require fluoride to function. Fluoride is not a nutrient, it is a chemical. Check the fluoride-containing toothpaste labels – it contains a warning to contact poison control if a pea-sized amount, or more, is swallowed.

Dental fluorosis, a sign of excess fluoride exposure, shows up on teeth as white or brown stains on the enamel and is a permanent condition. Some studies showed that 30-40% of children and adolescents have this condition.

The Center for Disease Control also warn mothers of babies and toddlers about using fluoridated tap water in infant formula as there “may be an increased chance for mild dental fluorosis.”

There’s concern for adults as well; fluoride may increase underactive thyroid disorder, also known as hypothyroidism.

Recent studies have suggested a link between fluoridation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A multitude of studies, both in humans and animals, show fluoride impairs learning and memory as well as IQ scores.

Adults excrete about 60% of fluoride through their kidneys, whereas adolescents clear about 45%. For teenagers, findings from a study at Mount Sinai suggest that fluoride can be detrimental to kidney and liver function.

Fluoride’s potential negative effects include kidney and liver damage, thyroid dysfunction, bone (and tooth) disease, impaired protein metabolism, and may cause brain (and pineal gland) damage.

Look below at the chart; you’ll notice that the rates of cavities have decreased for all countries – including those that didn’t fluoridate their water. 

water-fluoridation-cavities
Chart from Newsweek

The rates of cavities in the population have declined since fluoride was added to the water post-World War II, but what could explain this drop for countries that didn’t fluoridate theirs? Well, a variety of factors could be at play since the mid-1940s, including: access to dentists and regular dental care, better education about dental health, toothbrush and dental care technology. If Austria and northern European countries are seeing a decline in dental caries without fluoridation, is it worth the potential risks to our health to have fluoride in ours? Only you can decide.

What’s the Safe Level of Fluoride then?

Right off the bat, it’s important to know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies fluoride as a drug when it is used to prevent or ameliorate disease. All other water treatment chemicals are added to improve water quality or safety, but fluoride is the only chemical added to water as a medical treatment (though, as you’ll see below, the FDA calls fluoride an ‘additive’). Whether you asked for it or not, whether you need it or not, you’re being medically treated every time you drink tap water (or bottled water with fluoride).

Here’s a bit of interesting information: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services puts the recommended fluoride level (‘healthy limit’) at 0.7 ppm (Parts Per Million) whereas the EPA drinking water “maximum contaminant level” (MCL) is 4.0 mg/L (which further down the page is said to be equivalent to ppm). It’s in rather recent times that the ‘healthy limit’ was lowered to 0.7ppm from between 0.7 and 1.2 mg/L (again, mg/L being equivalent to ppm).

Even though there’s a ‘legal limit’ to set for fluoride, the water you drink, especially from the tap, may contain 5x more than what is healthy.  It’s tempting to think that fluoride is regulated by the FDA and therefore has undergone the same testing that medicines do; however, it is isn’t regulated by the FDA and hasn’t been rigorously tested, because it is considered an ‘additive’ and not a medication. Consider also that most fluoridation chemicals added to tap water are by-products of chemical manufacturing (such as aluminum) and from the phosphate fertilizer industry. This is ‘industrial grade’ and not ‘pharmaceutical grade’ fluoride being allowed into tap water.

Bottom line: do your research and determine how much exposure to fluoride you are comfortable with; make decisions on your water filter treatment accordingly.

Hint: reverse osmosis is one of the best ways to filter fluoride (and other chemicals) out of your drinking water – find out more in Is Your Water Safe?

💧 Is Your Water Safe? 🥤

isyourwatersafe

With many resolutions around improving health in the new year, one of the specific goals people mention is to “drink more water.” While that is a foundational aspect, you might want to consider first the quality of the water you’re drinking before you increase the quantity. Why?

Water’s unique properties and qualities are what make it essential to us. It helps the human body use minerals and nutrients so that we can:

  • Digest food and eliminate waste products
  • Oxygenate our blood
  • Manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain
  • Lubricate our joints as well as protect our brain and spinal cords.

Water is essential for the body’s tiny cells so that they can grow and perform their specialized functions.

The human body’s percentage of water will vary due to age, sex, and body composition. Babies and toddlers have higher percentages of water (65-78%) than adult males (60%) and females (55%). Obese individuals bodies will be a lower percentage of water, because fat tissue doesn’t contain as much of it as lean tissue does.

Water Drinking Guidelines

How much water your body needs will depend upon your age, sex, activity level, and living location (you’ll likely need to drink more water in the desert of Arizona than Alaska). On average, men are advised to get 3 liters of water per day and women 2.2 liters; however, remember that all of this doesn’t have to come from drinking it, as we can also get water from some of the foods we eat.

Too much water can cause minerals imbalances and disrupted sleep. Too little can lead to feelings of hunger and sugar cravings and can cause dehydration, fatigue, poor digestion, skin breakouts, and headaches.

So now we know why water is so important to our bodies and roughly the percentage of water our bodies contain. We also understand the importance of hydration; however, have you considered what you’re hydrating with? If it’s with tap water, bottled, a lightly purified version, or something fancier and carbonated, you’ll want to read on.

Water Safety & Quality

While we’d all like to believe that the water coming out of our faucets is from the purest of mountain springs, that simply is not the case. As you’ll see, the water we drink is fraught with potential peril.

Tap water is the most readily available source, but it may not always be the safest option. While some cities have very good purification systems, others may leave traces of chlorination byproducts, agricultural runoff, lead, chemicals and bacteria.

As a starting point, research your city’s Consumer Confidence Report; it is distributed each year by the Environmental Protection Agency. It may not have all the information you’d want to see, but it can alert you to get further testing and to see if additional home water purification is imperative.

Should I be concerned if my water has fluoride in it?

Even though there’s a ‘legal limit’ to set for fluoride, the water you drink, especially from the tap, may contain 5x more than what is healthy.  It’s tempting to think that fluoride is regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and therefore has undergone the same testing that medicine do; however, it is isn’t regulated by the FDA and hasn’t been rigorously tested. Stay tuned and check out Fluoride: Cavities & Hypothyroidism to learn more.

Some things to know about our water if you’re living in Columbus, Ohio:

  1. Remember the movie Erin Brockovich? Guess what, we have had the same cancer-causing chemical  in our water.
  2. This year, The Columbus Dispatch revealed the highest ‘forever chemical’ content found in our water sample was perfluorobutyrate (PFBA) at 4.8 parts per trillion.

What to do if you want Safer Water

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links or discount codes, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may make a commission.

Since it seems easier to control what you do with the water inside of your home than to enact city- and state-wide change, here are some options to consider:

1. Distilled water. Distillation is a process consisting of boiling water which has been found to remove impurities and toxins. However, some believe the naturally occurring minerals in non-distilled water are beneficial to our health.

2. Bottled water. Most homes get their water from their local water supply company (others often use well water) and, if they aren’t drinking the tap water, they are buying cases of bottled water. Is that really safer? Sometimes bottled water is not from a spring, but it’s tap water that has been purified. Also, there is the issue of plastics leaching into the water and the environmental impact. You may want to consider if the company who is selling your bottled water fits your values (vote with your dollars accordingly).

3. Carbon filters. The carbon filter in many of the refrigerators and pitchers people use will clean up some of the chlorine and improve taste and odor. That’s about it though; these filters don’t typically remove the chemicals and heavy metals that can be present.

4. Reverse osmosis filtration. This is the next step up, and one of the best options. There’s typically a pre-filter to remove sediment and then the reverse osmosis membrane has such tiny holes that only pure water can get through. There are options for re-mineralizing water and alkalizing it through ion-exchange. See the RKIN Reverse-osmosis water filtration systems we tested and use in this video. The counter top version is great for portability; for larger families, the whole-house reverse osmosis system is a good option. Remember to get 10% off your order.

Bottom line

Water filters can help remove contaminants and environmental toxins that enter our water systems.

Keep in mind, it’s easier to remove contaminants from the water we drink than it is to remove them once they’ve been absorbed and assimilated into the body.

One of the simplest actions we can take is to ensure we are drinking high-quality water, and enough of it.