Wednesday, April 13, 2016 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
According to a report published by The Lancet in 2014 but that has only recently gained wider attention, fluoride is a neurotoxin in the same category as mercury, lead and arsenic.
Fluoride’s status as a neurotoxin is not particularly new or controversial in the medical community, but this knowledge has not been widely disseminated in the United States, largely due to the political context of the dental industry continuing to push for fluoride in toothpaste and in public water supplies. Opponents of water fluoridation hope that publicizing the 2014 paper — published by the world’s oldest and most prestigious medical journal — will help bolster the growing movement to have fluoride removed from drinking water.
“Pandemic” of brain damage
The article in question, published in the March 2014 edition of The Lancet Neurology, was a systematic review of known major industrial chemicals that function as neurotoxins. The review began by stating that a prior review by the same researchers had identified strong scientific proof that five separate (but similar) industrial chemicals function as neurotoxins: lead, methylmercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and toluene (used in paint thinners, glues and animal feed).
The new review expanded that list to another six chemicals: fluoride, manganese, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), tetrachloroethylene (PERC), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). More industrial neurotoxins will certainly be discovered in the future, they said.
The researchers explicitly linked these chemicals to an ongoing rise in the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disabilities including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and other cognitive impairments, calling the situation a “pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity.”
The researchers further criticized the US toxics regulatory structure for not requiring safety testing of industrial chemicals, and for requiring an incredibly high level of proof of harm before regulation can take place.
“Untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development, and chemicals in existing use and all new chemicals must therefore be tested for developmental neurotoxicity,” the wrote.
They further called for a global effort to combat the prevalence of industrial neurotoxins.
“To coordinate these efforts and to accelerate translation of science into prevention, we propose the urgent formation of a new international clearinghouse,” they wrote.
All harm, no benefit
The specter of neurotoxicity heightens concerns over the widespread practice of adding fluoride to public water supplies in the United States (in contrast, the practice is rare or even banned throughout most of Europe and many other wealthy countries).
Evidence is beginning to emerge directly linking not just fluoride, but water fluoridation specifically, to brain damage. A 2013 meta-analysis conducted by researchers from Harvard University found that IQ scores among children living in areas with highly fluoridated water were significantly lower than those of children with low fluoride content in their water.
Neurotoxicity is not the only known health risk of fluoride exposure. Consumption of a relatively small amount of fluoride can be deadly — just read the warning on any tube of fluoridated toothpaste — and long-term exposure to fluoridated water has been linked with a form of tooth discoloration called dental fluorosis. Fluoride can also damage the thyroid gland, and a landmark 2006 study linked exposure to fluoridated water to a rare form of bone cancer called childhood osteosarcoma.
Evidence is also increasingly calling into question the validity of early studies that linked fluoridated water to improved dental health.
“Fluoridation is no longer effective,” said Hardy Limeback, head of the University of Toronto’s preventive dentistry program. Limeback was involved in a 2010 study that found no dental benefit from fluoridation.
Considering the well-known risks of fluoride, Limeback called fluoridation “more harmful than beneficial.”
Is it any wonder that communities across the United States are increasingly pushing to have fluoride taken out of their water supplies?
Sources for this article include: