Second Thoughts On Fluoride

January 2008

teeth SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN– Researchers are intensifying their scrutiny of fluoride, which is added to most public water systems in the U.S. Some recent studies suggest that overconsumption of fluoride can raise the risks of disorders affecting teeth, bones, the brain and the thyroid gland.

A 2006 report by a committee of the National Research Council recommended that the federal government lower its current limit for fluoride in drinking water because of health risks to both children and adults.

Long before the passionate debates over cigarettes, DDT, asbestos or the ozone hole, most Americans had heard of only one environmental health controversy: fluoridation. Starting in the 1950s, hundreds of communities across the U.S. became embroiled in heated battles over whether fluorides—ionic compounds containing the element fluorine—should be added to their water systems.

On one side was a broad coalition of scientists from government and industry who argued that adding fluoride to drinking water would protect teeth against decay; on the other side were activists who contended that the risks of fluoridation were inadequately studied and that the practice amounted to compulsory medication and thus was a violation of civil liberties.

A 2006 report by a committee of the National Research Council recommended that the federal government lower its current limit for fluoride in drinking water because of health risks to both children and adults.

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© Scientific American, 2008

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