Letter: Fluoridation Does Not Lower IQ

In the most recent edition of the Town-Crier, considerable coverage was given to the decision by Wellington Village Council to discontinue fluoridation of Wellington’s water supply. Village resident Tracey Powers expressed concerns that fluoride might reduce IQs of Wellington citizens. Based on the bizarre reasons she gives for her anti-fluoridation position and the befuddled comments of some of our council members, she may have a point that something is addling brains around here.

The practice of fluoridation of municipal water supplies has been in place in the United States since Grand Rapids, Mich., initiated the practice in 1945. Today, about 74 percent of the country’s population drink from taps supplied with fluoridated water. Health professionals estimate that there has been a 20 to 40 percent reduction in incidence of tooth decay because of this public health practice. The standard U.S. protocol is to supplement drinking water with 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride. This concentration has never been shown to correlate with any adverse health impact in any of the 50 U.S. epidemiological studies on the subject.

Ms. Powers refers to the fluoride as a “drug” in our water. Oh, please. Fluoride additive in our water is no more a “drug” than iodine in our table salt (≥ 15 ppm) or folate added to breads and cereals.

To further her position, Ms. Powers claims that there are “hundreds of scientific studies that say that fluoride reduces IQs in children.” Actually, there is one study that is the basis for this claim. It is out of Harvard University and it is what we refer to in the scientific literature as a “meta-analysis” or robust review of previously published research. Sophisticated statistical procedures are used to find trends across a panel of experiments reported by other workers. The Harvard authors did not do the actual research but examined 25 papers, 23 of which were from China. They concluded that when communities in China used drinking water with very high naturally occurring levels of fluoride (in the range of 7 ppm or about 7 times the concentration used as an additive in the U.S.), a drop of about 7 IQ points was found, compared to the control group.

This might seem of concern at first glance, but if you go to the original papers (which we geeky scientists have an annoying habit of doing), you see striking numbers. The control group, that is, the group with the higher IQs, were drinking from water sources with a fluoride concentration of 0.8 ppm, right in the range used to fluoridate U.S. water systems! And what’s more, the adults in the communities with the high fluoride levels actually had a statistically significant increase in longevity over those in the control or lower fluoride group.

The authors of the Harvard study made this statement concerning the use of their own work: “These results do not allow us to make any judgment regarding possible levels of risk at levels of exposure typical for water fluoridation in the U.S.” If they can’t, why are Ms. Powers and three of our council members confident they can?

Recently the city of Wichita, Kan., had a referendum on the ballot to discontinue fluoride use in the city’s drinking water. Our Harvard scientists wrote to Wichita’s daily newspaper, urging voters to not vote for elimination of fluoridation, stating that their study was insufficient to overcome the obvious health benefits from fluoridation. I’m sure they would have the same things to say to Wellington.

That Ms. Powers may be led astray by the anti-fluoride conspiracy theories out there may not be all that surprising. After all, 30 percent of Americans believe Sasquatch lives! But the policy decision of three of our council members is something else, indeed. They voted to discontinue fluoridation despite the informed advice of health professionals in attendance, as well as the official stance of the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and the Surgeon General. This is not a matter of locating the village tennis courts, but a matter of the health and well-being of our residents, young and old. We deserve better. Shame on you.

Ken Pernezny, PhD., Wellington


  1. Ken Pernezny, is wrong about the fluoride/iQ research

    The majority of studies examined and found to reduce IQ, by the Harvard team investigated fluoride water levels which the US EPA says is safe – less than 4 mg/l.

    · One study, sponsored by UNICEF, found reduced IQ at just 0.88 mg/l – a level within the “optimal” fluoride range added to the drinking water of over 200 million Americans.

    Seven found reduced IQs among children drinking water with fluoride levels between 2.1 and 4 mg/l — levels that 1.4 million Americans drink everyday.

    Four found effects at levels between 1.8 and 2.0 mg/l — levels that over 200,000 Americans drink everyday.

    EPA’s conventional approach to risk assessment limits chemical exposure to levels ten times less than those known to cause adverse effects. With fluoride and IQ, the levels of fluoride in water and urine are — at most — just two or three times more than the amount experienced by tens of millions of American children

    Senior Harvard author Philippe Grandjean says, “Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons that cause chemical brain drain.The effect of each toxicant may seem small, but the combined damage on a population scale can be serious, especially because the brain power of the next generation is crucial to all of us.”

    Fluoride is one of 213 known brain-toxic chemicals that may lower the intelligence of generations of children, reports renowned physician and 30-year brain researcher, Dr. Phillipe Grandjean in his new book, “Only One Chance: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development

    Further, the EPA says fluoride is a chemical “with substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.” See: http://www.epa.gov/ncct/toxcast/files/summit/48P%20Mundy%20TDAS.pdf

    “Fluorides are known to cause brain toxicity and neurological symptoms in humans,” Dr. Grandjean says. He laments that vested interests often manipulate brain-drain research and manufacture uncertainties to wrongly discredit scientists’ conclusions and credibility.

    Vested interests caused decades to pass before children were protected from the brain-damaging effects of lead exposure reported in the literature. We unnecessarily lost a generation to lead-induced brain damage, reports Grandjean.

    The question legislators should be asking themselves is ‘Do I wait until public health officials catch up with the scientific literature that now shows fluoride can cause serious neurological harm to children, or do I take my leadership role seriously and reject fluoridation.’

    Thirty seven human studies now link fluoride to lowered IQ, . See: http://www.fluoridealert.org/articles/iq-facts/

    Over 40 animal studies showing that prolonged exposure to varying levels of fluoride can damage the brain, particularly when coupled with an iodine deficiency, or aluminum excess;

    25 animal studies reporting that mice or rats ingesting fluoride have an impaired capacity to learn and remember;

    12 studies (7 human, 5 animal) linking fluoride with neurobehavioral deficits (e.g., impaired visual-spatial organization);

    3 human studies linking fluoride exposure with impaired fetal brain development.

    In 2006, the National Research Council (NRC) stated that “it is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain.” In addition to calling for U.S.-based research on fluoride’s IQ effects, the NRC expressed concern about fluoride’s possible contribution to dementia. According to the NRC:

    “Studies of populations exposed to different concentrations of fluoride should be undertaken to evaluate neurochemical changes that may be associated with dementia. Consideration should be given to assessing effects from chronic exposure, effects that might be delayed or occur late-in-life, and individual susceptibility.”

    Since fluoride is neither a nutrient nor essential for healthy teeth, it is a drug and, like all drugs, fluoride has adverse side effects that affect different people in different ways. It’s not just brain damage. Fluoride can damage the thyroid, bones, kidney patients, diabetics, anyone who drinks lots of water and babies even at low water fluoride concentrations. See evidence from respected peer-reviewed journals here http://www.FluorideAction.Net/issues/health

    The water supply should never be used to deliver a drug to an entire population without regard for bio-individuality. Unlike the nutrients mentioned by Pernezny, consuming a fluoride-free diet does not cause tooth decay.

    Further, little publicized is that Government, health and dental organizations now advise that infant formula should not be routinely mixed with fluoridated water to avoid overdosing babies with fluoride and putting them at risk of developed dental fluorosis (white spotted, yellow, brown and/or pitted teeth) with no benefit. http://www.FormulaFluoride.Webs.com

    Dental fluorosis now afflicts up to 60% of US adolescents – 51% of whom have tooth decay despite fluoride overdose and despite many having dental sealants.

    80% of dentists refuse Medicaid patients. Many Americans can’t afford dentistry’s high fees whether they have insurance or not. Since no resident of Wellington is fluoride-deficient; but many may be dentist-deficient, it would make more sense for fluoridation-touting dentists and health officials to make sure that the teeth of low-income residents get treated instead of their water supply.

    And Pernezny, left out a sentence from this Harvard scientists’ quote which I will add in all caps. “These results do not allow us to make any judgment regarding possible levels of risk at levels of exposure typical for water fluoridation in the U.S.” ON THE OTHER HAND, NEITHER CAN IT BE CONCLUDED THAT NO RISK IS PRESENT.

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