Water, which is necessary for our health and survival, has ironically become a trend. Doctors recommend drinking eight glasses a day and gurus include it as a core component of their skincare routines, crediting the age-old beverage to their flawless skin. To ensure hydration, people tote their fancy reusable bottles as accessories, personalizing and decorating them with stickers and adornments. I, too, am guilty of this, as I cannot leave my house without my Frost Blue Hydro Flask, but people can take their pick of Hydro Flasks, S’wells, Boxed Water, or dare I say it- plastic.
Everyone agrees that water is an essential component of our diets and that a daily intake of water correlates with hydrated, glowing skin. However, recent studies have called into question the contents that makeup water, including fluoride, revealing that the added mineral may actually be toxic.
Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in our bones and teeth, as well as water, soil, plants, rocks, and air. Dentists often use fluoride to strengthen enamel and prevent cavities, but it can also be found in household products like toothpaste and mouthwash.
Along the same line of reasoning, local governments add fluoride to water supplies with the goal of combating tooth decay- in the U.S., fluoride has been added to public water systems since the 1940s. This practice has long since been viewed as controversial as many professionals argue that large intakes of fluoride are detrimental to public health. Despite the goal of strengthening teeth, high exposure to fluoride has been found to have the opposite effect. According to studies conducted by the World Health Organization, excess fluoride intake has been linked to teeth damage, but also more severe health consequences, including bone cancer and cognitive impairments.
Excess fluoride intake has been linked to teeth damage, bone cancer, and cognitive impairments (World Health Organization)
This controversy has led many communities to take action to limit fluoride exposure in their local water systems. According to Fluoride Action Network, an anti-fluoride activist group, within the last 20 years, more than 300 communities in North America have voted to end fluoridation. For instance, in 2012, Pinellas County in Florida, with nearly 700,000 residents, stopped adding fluoride to their water systems, becoming the largest population at the time to halt fluoridation. Currently, in spite of these measures, fluoridated water remains widespread, with 66% of Americans and 39% of Canadians having access to fluoridated tap water.
As a whole, the U.S. government has failed to recognize the health concerns linked to high exposure to fluoride, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintaining that the fluoridation of water systems is safe and beneficial for the public. The government upholds these claims despite the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lowering its recommended intake level of fluoride in drinking water to prevent tooth decay. In 2015, the HHS decreased the optimal concentration to .7 mg per liter from 1.2 mg per liter.
Disturbing findings in a recent study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics have reignited the fluoridation debate
Disturbing findings in a recent study conducted by JAMA Pediatricshave reignited the fluoridation debate. This study, which took place in six Canadian cities and tracked the fluoride intake of mother-child pairs, found that high fluoride exposure had cognitive repercussions, correlating to lower IQ scores among young children. In the study, researchers tracked the fluoride levels in urine samples from 500 expectant mothers from 2008 to 2011. The mothers provided urine samples each trimester during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. To track the cognitive impact, the children took IQ tests at the age of 3 or 4. Researchers found that high fluoride intake correlated with lower IQ scores in boys, with an average of a 3.66-point drop when an extra milligram of fluoride was consumed daily during pregnancy. It is unsurprising that fluoride exposure had a greater impact on males, as prior evidence has shown that boys are more prone to neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD.
As a result of these findings, the study’s conductors have recommended that women reduce their fluoride intake during pregnancy to ensure the wellbeing and healthy development of the fetus. Christine Till, a study co-author and associate professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, called it a “no-brainer.”
“It’s an important study. It’s not the definitive study. Science is an incremental process.”
Despite these developments, the health effects of fluoride are still up for debate. Dr. Dimitri Christakis,JAMA Pediatrics’editor-in-chief and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, warns against having new research “misplayed in the public arena” or using recent studies to make conclusive statements about the risks of fluoride, saying, “It’s an important study. It’s not the definitive study. Science is an incremental process.”
Although it’s still unclear whether fluoride puts the public at risk, researchers recommend that people, and specifically pregnant women, lean on the side of caution before downing eight cups a day. Now, this doesn’t mean to stop drinking water altogether, it is still crucial for survival and contributes to glowing skin, but before filling up your Hydro Flask or S’well, consider where you’re sourcing your water and try to avoid high levels of fluoride.
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