Integrity needed on fluoride's health risks: scientists

Feature story - August 25, 2003
Hundreds of leading scientists and public health activists from across the globe issued a joint statement today, urging governments promoting fluoridation to bring some integrity into the debate and stop the cover-up of the public health risks posed by decades of adding fluoride to public drinking water.

Water fluoridation was introduced in the 1950s in an attempt to reduce dental cavities. However, that was before the advent of fluoride toothpaste and many studies now point to long-term health worries, including arthritis, hip fracture, and accumulation in the pineal gland, that are not offset by claimed dental benefits.

Swedish Nobel laureate Dr. Arvid Carlsson added his name to an international petition holding the signatures of over 300 prominent individuals and organizations from 37 countries (

"The amount of fluoride in fluoridated tap water-often used for mixing baby formula-is 100 times higher than the level in mothers' milk," said Carlsson. "I am worried what this will do the baby's developing brain cells."

Dr. Albert Burgstahler, editor of the journal Fluoride, echoed Carlsson's concerns."The latest work from China indicates a lowering of IQ in children drinking water at less than twice the concentration we add to our water," said Burgstahler. "There's practically no margin of safety here."

In an article in the September issue of the journal Australasian Science, Australia's Dr. Mark Diesendorf, former professor of environmental science, wrote that, "Instead of debating the issue in open scientific forums, promoters are trying to maintain fluoridation by political power."

Dr. Hardy Limeback, head of preventive dentistry at the University of Toronto and former president of the Canadian Association of Dental Research, stressed that fluoride's effect is strictly from direct contact with the tooth's exterior. "The majority of dental researchers now believe there's little benefit in actually swallowing fluoride," said Limeback.

The petitioning group included Pat Costner, senior scientist for Greenpeace International; Dr. Lynn Margulis, recipient of the 1999 US National Medal of Science; the Consumers Associaton of Penang, and toxics campaign directors for Greenpeace in Australia, India, Japan, Norway, the Philippines and Thailand.

Dr. Paul Connett, professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence University in New York, organized the joint communique. "Health authorities in the few remaining fluoridating countries are hushing up key new studies that show the serious disruptive effects fluoride has on the body," said Connett. "Unless this rift between honest science and public health policy is mended, it poses a threat not just to those who are forced to drink fluoridated water, but to every other public health policy that relies on the public's trust in government."