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There are two sides to any story, and that is definitely true in the case of fluoride. Since being introduced into the public water supplies of much of the U.S. (and several other countries) in the 1960s, a consistent debate has existed on whether or not fluoride is truly safe as a water additive or dental health product.
It’s more complex than you might believe at first. On the one side, many public health organizations hail fluoride as a near-miracle for dental health and insist there are no questions or contrary pieces of evidence whatsoever.
For example, the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) states on their website, “Because of its contribution to the large decline in cavities in the United States since the 1960s, CDC named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.” (1) The American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatrics agree, and have since the beginning of public water fluoridation in the mid 1900s. (2, 3, 4)
Pretty convincing, right?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple.
The controversy over fluoride in water has been the main point of contention for anti-fluoridationists for the last several decades, since it was introduced widely in 1960. (5) Is it just kooks and conspiracy theorists that are continuing the pointless complaining about a public health victory?
Quite the opposite proves to be true after a bit of digging. A growing body of research has existed since before fluoride was ever approved for dental use finding it has the ability to cause long-lasting negative health effects in various bodily systems. (6)
What Is Fluoride?
“Fluoride” refers to any compound containing a fluorine ion. Sporting a chemical symbol of “F” and an atomic number of 9, fluorine is one of the well-recognized elements on the periodic table. As a pure gas, fluorine is “the most reactive and electronegative of all the elements.” It has extremely damaging effects to any living organism with which it comes into contact. (7)
In nature, calcium fluoride (CaF2) is found in soil and water. Spring water in areas without industries that regularly use fluoride generally contains about .01-.03 ppm (parts per million, also known as milligrams per liter or mg/L) of calcium fluoride naturally, while seawater is closer to 1.3 ppm. (8) These amounts vary greatly depending on location — in some parts of the world, calcium fluoride is found up to 10–20 ppm in water supplies, which is universally recognized as an unsafe ingestible amount of the compound.
Despite the insistence of various organizations to tell the public that this same compound is what’s added to their drinking water, this isn’t actually true. Calcium fluoride is not well-absorbed into the body, whereas sodium fluoride (NaF) is. This chemical compound does not occur in nature and was generally considered industrial toxic waste until 1950, when it was announced as a new dental health initiative.
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