Fluoride and our young

It has long been known that infants are particularly sensitive to chemicals – far more so than adults. And yet Australian health authorities have arrogantly disregarded the possible harmful effects of fluoride on the most susceptible members of our society.
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"It is high time we change our long habit of not thinking fluoride consumption wrong and realize it is a significant risk factor for premature birth and long-term neurological disabilities. A vibrant fully functioning brain is the most precious gift of life. It is inexcusable to promote, condone, or ignore any substance or policy that threatens this birthright.”
John D. MacArthur Jr.
“Fluoride, premature birth and impaired neurodevelopment.”
  • In 2006, a major study confirms that some toxic chemicals, including fluoride, can interfere with the natural function of genes, proteins and other small molecules in the brain;
  • The immature brain is much more vulnerable to toxic exposure than the brain of an adult and interference from certain chemicals, including fluoride, can lead to the onset of neurodevelopmental disorders;
  • 53 human studies that have specifically shown the neurotoxicity of fluoride and reduced IQ in children;
  • The “Bashash study” (2017) and the “Green study” (2019) confirm the link between fluoride ingestion of mothers and later reduced IQ in their children;
  • Infants are the most vulnerable to fluoride toxicity;
  • Infants often receive up to four times more fluoride (per kilogram of bodyweight) than adults consuming the same amount of fluoride;
  • Infants are far less capable of expelling fluoride via their kidneys, only excreting around 15 to 20 per cent of fluoride ingested. This naturally leads to an accumulation of fluoride in the infant’s body;
  • Infants feeding on baby formula made with fluoridated water often suffer higher rates of dental fluorosis;
  • An infant drinking baby formula using fluoridated water in Australia will receive between 150 and 275 times the amount of fluoride contained in mother’s milk (not including any fluoride in the formula);
  • In 2006, the American Dental Association stated, “If using a product that needs to be reconstituted, parents and caregivers should consider using water that has no or low levels of fluoride.”;
  • In 2016, Australia’s NHMRC made a remarkable decision to substantially INCREASE the Upper Level of Intake for infants and children up to 8 years of age;
  • The “Expert Working Group” within NHMRC, even admitted that based on the original Upper Levels determined by the US Institute of Medicine in 1997, most Australian infants would exceed these limits;
  • Study shows nearly 40 per cent of kids aged up to 6 years are using too much toothpaste and are therefore at risk of swallowing toxic sodium fluoride and developing dental fluorosis;
  • Study shows fluoridation associated with an increased risk of premature birth;
  • NHMRC believes that our infants and children are more tolerant and less susceptible to the potential damaging effects of fluoride than other infants and children worldwide.
The susceptibility of our young

In 2006, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University released a study1 confirming that some toxic chemicals can interfere with the natural function of genes, proteins and other small molecules in the brain. It was hardly surprising that the study revealed the immature brain is much more vulnerable to toxic exposure than the brain of an adult and that interference from certain chemicals can lead to the onset of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy and dyslexia.

“The mature brain has a barrier of cells that stops chemicals in the blood stream from entering brain tissue. But the developing foetus does not have this protective barrier, meaning it is more vulnerable to toxic substances. There are a series of chemicals that have been associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. These include lead, mercury, fluoride, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), manganese, chlorpyrifos (a pesticide) and tetrachloroethylene (a solvent).”1
Fluoride and infants

Amongst those chemicals, there are 53 human studies that have specifically shown the neurotoxicity of fluoride and reduced IQ in children. The most recent of these, the “Bashash study”, a major, long-term, multi-million-dollar study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives in September 2017, confirming the link between fluoride ingestion of mothers and later reduced IQ in their children. See our article titled Fluoride and reduced IQ.

In fact of all age groups, infants are the most vulnerable to fluoride toxicity. Because of their small size, infants often receive up to four times more fluoride (per kilogram of bodyweight) than adults consuming the same amount of fluoride.  And while healthy adults are normally able to excrete around 50 per cent of fluoride ingested, infants are far less capable of expelling fluoride via their kidneys, excreting around 15 to 20 per cent of fluoride ingested. This naturally leads to an accumulation of fluoride in the infant’s body and may help explain why infants feeding on baby formula made with fluoridated water suffer higher rates of dental fluorosis, a discoloration of the teeth caused by excessive ingestion of fluoride during childhood. But as the Harvard study revealed, a baby’s blood brain barrier is not fully developed at birth, and this means the neurotoxic fluoride has more effect on the brain than later in life.

So it is very clear that infants are particularly susceptible; they receive more fluoride per kilogram of bodyweight; they are physiologically more sensitive to the damage of fluoride (especially the brain); and they are able to excrete less fluoride. Also see our article: The bioaccumulation of fluoride.

Conflicting views

Twenty five years ago the American Dental Association (ADA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognised this acute susceptibility and reversed their decades-long policy of recommending that doctors prescribe fluoride supplements to newborn infants.

Researchers also realised the enormous difference in fluoride levels between mother’s milk, which typically contains between zero and 0.004mg/litre of fluoride, and baby formula reconstituted with fluoridated tap water, normally containing around 0.6 and 1.1mg per litre of fluoride. An infant fed using fluoridated water in Australia will therefore receive around 200 times the amount of fluoride contained in mother’s milk. And often mother’s milk has no fluoride, demonstrating how nature intends for the infant to receive as little of this neurotoxic chemical as possible – in a natural or synthetic form.

An infant drinking baby formula using fluoridated water in Australia will receive between 150 and 275 times the amount of fluoride contained in mother’s milk. And that's not including any fluoride that might be contained in the formula.

In 2006, in response to these findings, the American Dental Association admitted the dangers and risks of fluoride to infants and publicly warned parents stating, “If using a product that needs to be reconstituted, parents and caregivers should consider using water that has no or low levels of fluoride.”

If using a product that needs to be reconstituted, parents and caregivers should consider using water that has no or low levels of fluoride.”

American Dental Association, 2006.

Given this particular susceptibility and the responsible first steps already taken overseas, it would be reasonable to expect Australian health authorities also to take special precautions to ensure that our infants are protected from the potential harms of fluoride.

Instead, in November 2016, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) made a remarkable decision to substantially INCREASE the Upper Level of Intake for infants and children up to 8 years of age. The increase ranged from 71 per cent to 100 per cent for this age category, as follows:

Upper Level of Intake (NRVANZ)

Age group Pre-2017 2017 Increase
Infants and children up to 8 years (mg/kg bw/day)
0.1
0.2
100%
Infants 0-6 months (mg/L)
0.7
1.2
71%
Infants 7-12 months (mg/L)
0.9
1.8
100%
1-3 years (mg/L)
1.3
2.4
85%
4-8 years (mg/L)
2.2
4.4
100%

This means, despite the risks of fluoride toxicity, Australia’s upper fluoride limits for infants and children are now significantly higher than or DOUBLE the upper limits used in the United States and elsewhere.

The “Expert Working Group” (EWG) within NHMRC, who reviewed and changed these Upper Levels, was a highly-biased, pro-fluoride group. They even admitted that based on the original Upper Levels determined by the US Institute of Medicine in 1997, most Australian infants would exceed these limits. In particular, they realised that bottle-fed babies given baby formula reconstituted with fluoridated tap water would likely exceed the Upper Limits. So rather than taking appropriate steps to warn parents of the possible risks and the need to reduce fluoride consumption, they found a way to justify doubling the levels without drawing any unwanted adverse attention to the already-controversial water fluoridation program.

This paragraph is taken from NHMRC’s document titled Australian and New Zealand Nutrient Reference Values for Fluoride:

“Recent estimates of dietary fluoride intake in Australia and New Zealand have suggested that the fluoride intake of a substantial proportion of infants and young children may exceed the UL. At the same time, there is no evidence of widespread occurrence of moderate or severe dental fluorosis. This suggests that the existing UL needs reconsideration.”

The EWG justified this irresponsible decision by dismissing all potential risks of fluoride other than dental fluorosis – including 53 human studies showing that fluoride reduces IQ in children; they heavily relied on data from studies previously deemed unreliable that were conducted in the 1930s;  they used the fluoride content of processed foods as measured by Food Standards Australia New Zealand in Brisbane – just prior to Brisbane being fluoridated – thus minimising the measured food/fluoride content; they ignored any contribution from foods fumigated with the pesticide Sulfuryl Fluoride, and finally they ignored swallowed toothpaste. For more details, see our article: Can the NHMRC be trusted?

This last item is very relevant as many young children are prone to using too much toothpaste and to ingesting fluoride. This was confirmed again by a study conducted by the US Centres for Disease Control, published in February 20192. The study’s authors stated:

“Brushing children’s teeth is recommended when the first tooth erupts, as early as 6 months, and the first dental visit should occur no later than age 1 year. However, ingestion of too much fluoride while teeth are developing can result in visibly detectable changes in enamel structure such as discoloration and pitting (dental fluorosis). Therefore, CDC recommends that children begin using fluoride toothpaste at age 2 years. Children aged <3 years should use a smear the size of a rice grain, and children aged >3 years should use no more than a pea-sized amount (0.25 g) until age 6 years, by which time the swallowing reflex has developed sufficiently to prevent inadvertent ingestion.”

The study found that about 60 per cent of children and teens aged 3 to 15 used a half or full toothbrush load of toothpaste. In children 3 to 6, about 12 per cent used a smear, 49.2 per cent used a pea-size amount, 20.6 per cent used a toothbrush half load and 17.8 per cent used a full load. This means nearly 40 per cent of kids aged up to 6 years are using too much toothpaste and are therefore at risk of swallowing toxic sodium fluoride and developing dental fluorosis when their primary and secondary teeth are erupting. See our article: Dental fluorosis.

Several studies have shown that kids are using too much toothpaste and therefore are at risk of swallowing toxic sodium fluoride.
Fluoride and the foetus

As previously mentioned, after birth, mother’s milk naturally protects the newborn baby from fluoride. But what about fluoride levels prior to birth? We know that water fluoridation removes that protection as fluoride can easily pass through the membrane between the mother and the foetus. As the Bashash study confirms, the foetus cannot escape the influence of fluoride that is ingested by the mother.

In fact US fluoride researchers have long known that placentas of women who drink fluoridated water contain significantly higher concentrations of fluoride. In a 1952 issue of Science Magazine, Harold C. Hodge (chief toxicologist for the US Army’s Manhattan Project) reported that women who drank artificially fluoridated water (1.0–1.2 ppm fluoride) averaged 2.09 ppm fluoride in their placentas, compared with 0.74 ppm for women who drank non-fluoridated water (0.06 ppm fluoride).”

With this in mind the increased sensitivity of the foetus is absolutely paramount, especially when we consider the body weight of the foetus in the first trimester. This period is possibly the most crucial and most ultra-sensitive time for the foetus as far as fluoride toxicity and other potential neurotoxicity is concerned.

Fluoridation chemicals (including unavoidable contaminants) are neurotoxic, in addition to dozens of other harms to the body. They pose the worst risks to foetuses and infants.”

Tina Kimmel, Ph.D., MSW, MPH

Yet another issue is the potential of fluoride to cause premature births. In 2009, the State University of New York (SUNY) presented the findings of a study3 that found more premature births in fluoridated than non-fluoridated upstate New York communities.

The SUNY researchers used 1993-2002 data from the NY Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System (SPARCS), which collects detailed patient characteristics in New York State. They recorded fluoridation residence status (under or over 1 milligram fluoride per Litre of water) and adjusted for age, race/ethnicity, neighborhood poverty level, hypertension and diabetes.

“Domestic water fluoridation was associated with an increased risk of PTB [preterm birth]. This relationship was most pronounced among women in the lowest SES [socio-economic-status] groups (>10% poverty) and those of non-white racial origin,” write Rachel Hart, et al. Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, SUNY School of Public Health.

At the request of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a National Research Council (NRC) panel of experts reviewed current fluoride toxicology. In 20064 they concluded that the maximum amount of fluoride allowed in drinking water is too high to be protective of health. At least three NRC panel members believe water fluoride levels should be as close to zero as possible. The EPA has yet to perform a fluoride risk assessment based on the NRC’s findings leaving many millions of people – especially our highly-sensitive young – at risk of fluoride’s adverse health effects.

According to Dr. Bill Hirzy, Chair of American University’s Chemistry Department and former EPA scientist from 1981 to 2008, the EPA fears “setting a maximum contaminant level goal of zero because that would mean the EPA is going to be responsible for the end of the water fluoridation program. EPA knows that there will be enormous political flak for doing that.”

But the US NRC actually waved the red warning flag to fluoride 13 years earlier. In 1993, the NRC admitted, “It is no longer feasible to estimate with reasonable accuracy the level of fluoride exposure simply on the basis of concentration in drinking water supply.”5

“[The EPA fears] setting a maximum contaminant level goal of zero because that would mean the EPA is going to be responsible for the end of the water fluoridation program. EPA knows that there will be enormous political flak for doing that.”
Dr. Bill Hirzy
Chair of American University’s Chemistry Department and former EPA scientist from 1981 to 2008
Latest research

In early 2019, the results of a study titled “Fluoride Intake of Infants from Formula”5 were published in the Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry. The study found that 4.4 per cent of infants in the United States consuming formula reconstituted with minimally fluoridated water (0.0– 0.3 ppm), exceeded the recommended upper limit (UL) of 0.1mg/kg/day. However, predicted values calculated with optimally fluoridated water (0.7ppm) resulted in 36.8 per cent of US infants exceeding the UL. In Australia, the NHMRC recommends fluoridation at 1.0 ppm fluoride (versus the lower level of 0.7 ppm with US government recommendation). With considerably higher fluoride exposures than US children, a substantial number of Australian bottle-fed children would have breached the Australian Upper Limits. This probably explains why the NHMRC increased Australia’s Upper Limits for fluoride ingestion – not to protect children, but to protect fluoridation.

In February 2019, John D. MacArthur. Jr. updated his review titled “Fluoride, premature birth and impaired neurodevelopment.”7 In this review he states:

“Therefore, even where fluoride levels in drinking water are claimed to be safe, mothers-to-be should take steps to minimize their consumption of fluoride to reduce the risk of premature birth – especially if they have dental fluorosis, visible proof of one’s susceptibility to systemic fluoride toxicity.

It is high time we change our long habit of not thinking fluoride consumption wrong and realize it is a significant risk factor for premature birth and long-term neurological disabilities. A vibrant fully functioning brain is the most precious gift of life. It is inexcusable to promote, condone, or ignore any substance or policy that threatens this birthright.”

Conclusion

It seems that Australia’s NHMRC believes that our infants and children are more tolerant and less susceptible to the potential damaging effects of fluoride than other infants and children worldwide. They also continue to disregard findings by the “Green” and “Bashash” studies and other studies showing the effect of fluoride on the foetus and they have ignored the SUNY study showing increased risk of premature birth due to fluoride ingestions. Clearly the NHMRC and other Australian health authorities seem more concerned about defending the process of mandatory water fluoridation than protecting the well-being of our young.

"The science is clear, fluoride is a neurotoxin, a metabolic and enzymatic poison and it should not be ingested, particularly by pregnant women or infants or persons who are susceptible to its toxic effects such as individuals who are iodine deficient, chloride deficient, individuals with kidney disease or compromised immunity.”
Declan Waugh
Environmental Scientist, Ireland

Reference notes

  1. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2006). “Early Exposure to Toxic Substances Damages Brain Architecture: Working Paper No. 4”. PDF available here.
  2. “Use of Toothpaste and Toothbrushing Patterns Among Children and Adolescents — United States, 2013–2016”, CDC, February 2019. Available here.
  3. “Relationship between municipal water fluoridation and preterm birth in Upstate New York”, Rachel Hart, BA, MPH, et al. Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University at Albany, State University of New York: Available here.
  4. “Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards” (2006); Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, US National Research Council. PDF available here.
  5. Committee on Toxicology. Health Effects of Ingested Fluoride. Washington DC: National Academy Press;1993:128.
  6. “Fluoride Intake of Infants from Formula”, Harriehausen et al (2019): Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry. Available here.
  7. “Fluoride, premature birth and impaired neurodevelopment.” John D. MacArthur. Jr. (February 2019), available in his book “Fluoride and Pregnancy Do Not Mix”. Review available here.