Is fluoride safe?
Debate has re-emerged in recent years as to the potential negative effects of fluoride in tap water. While the NHS says fluoride-added water can help in the fight against tooth decay, adding that there are various studies to back this up, other members of the scientific community have concerns.
One Canadian study in 2019 suggested that pregnant women’s exposure to fluoride may have an effect on young children’s intellectual development.
Meanwhile, in England, research published in 2015 found that GP practices in the West Midlands where water is treated with fluoride were ‘nearly twice as likely’ to have a higher number of patients with an underactive thyroid compared to Greater Manchester, which is a non-fluoridated area.
For its part, the NHS web page on fluoride concludes that fluoride ‘doesn’t seem to be associated with any significant health risks’.
As discussed above, debate continues as to the safety of fluoride in drinking water. Some scientists claim it helps maintain good oral health. But others have cast doubt on whether adding fluoride to tap water to help reduce tooth cavities might actually be unnecessary, when toothpastes containing fluoride already exist for that purpose.
Too much fluoride when growing up can lead to dental fluorosis. In mild cases, this means white flecks on the teeth. In severe cases, teeth can appear brown and corroded.
Studies have also linked fluoride to a higher risk in developing a rare bone cancer among teenage boys.
Fluoride damages nerve tissue and disrupts the body’s hormones. It can harm the thyroid gland and calcify the pineal gland in the brain. The pineal gland is believed to help regulate the body’s sleeping and waking cycles and other reproductive hormones.
Arguments can clearly be made for both sides. But, as long as fluoride is added to domestic water supplies, it also seems that doubts will remain, and studies will continue to reach various conclusions about its safety or risk.