Water fluoridation is the practice of adding fluoride compounds to water for the purpose of preventing tooth decay, which started in the 1940s. Since then, the dangers of fluoride have become better known, and many people wish to avoid it.
Unfortunately, some 70% of the water supply in the United States is fluoridated, with more Americans drinking fluoridated water than the rest of the world combined. Most developed nations, including Japan and 97% of Europe, do not fluoridate their water supplies.
Here are some ways to avoid fluoride in drinking water:
WATER FILTERS: Most water filters will not effectively remove fluoride. For instance, Brita™ filters will NOT remove fluoride. The two types of filters which will reliably remove more than 90% of the fluoride are reverse-osmosis filters and activated alumina filters.
SPRING WATER: Another way to avoid fluoride from the tap is to drink spring water. Most spring water has less than 0.1ppm fluoride, which is 10 times less than added for fluoridation. If you regularly consume a particular brand of spring water, call the telephone number on the label and ask the company how much fluoride is in their water. This information should be readily available to them. Water with less than 0.1ppm fluoride is recommended.
If you decide to use spring water as your main source of water, you might consider (for convenience) buying or renting a water cooler/dispenser that holds 5 gallon jugs of water. In addition, you might want to contact a bottled water company in your area and have them deliver water (in 5 gallon jugs) to your door on a recurring basis. This cuts down on the need to continually buy smaller plastic bottles from the store.
WATER DISTILLATION: A third way to avoid fluoride from the tap, is to distill the water. Water distillation will remove most, if not all, of the fluoride. The price for distillation units varies widely depending on the size. While small (counter-top) units cost as little as $200, large units can cost over $1600.
If you're using a fluoridated toothpaste, consider switching to a non-fluoridated alternative (which you can find at most health food stores). Note that most fluoridated toothpastes advise seeking immediate medical attention after swallowing more toothpaste than the amount required for one tooth brushing (!)
While the use of fluoridated toothpaste has certain benefits over water and salt fluoridation (e.g. the individual is given a choice; the fluoride does not contaminate the food supply; and the fluoride is applied to the teeth in a more targeted manner); it also presents a number of risks as well.
Young children, who don't have well developed swallowing-reflexes, often swallow a lot of toothpaste when brushing their teeth. Therefore, if they are using a fluoridated toothpaste they may ingest a lot of fluoride. For some children, fluoride toothpaste represents the largest daily source of ingested fluoride. As noted in a recent review: "Virtually all authors have noted that some children could ingest more fluoride from dentrifice alone than is recommended as a total daily fluoride ingestion." [Levy 1999].
Swallowing toothpaste at a young age is one of the major risk factors for the development of dental fluorosis – a disfiguring condition that can have damaging effects on a child's appearance and self-esteem.
Even if one doesn't actually swallow the fluoride, the fluoride may make it through the gum membrane and enter the bloodstream – thus contributing to a person's systemic exposure to fluoride.
Among hypersensitive individuals, fluoride toothpaste may cause or aggravate dermatitis (skin rash, usually near the mouth) or stomatitis (mouth ulcers, "canker sores"). If you have dermatitis near the mouth, consider trying a non-fluoride toothpaste for 2-3 weeks and see if your condition improves.
Research from the pharmaceutical company Sepracor indicates that fluoridated toothpaste may cause or contribute to periodontal bone loss. This finding is serious because periodontal bone loss is the leading cause of tooth loss among US adults. According to the scientists at Sepracor who conducted the study: "We have found that fluoride, in the concentration range in which it is employed for the prevention of dental caries, stimulates the production of prostaglandins and thereby exacerbates the inflammatory response in gingivitis and periodontitis... Thus, the inclusion of fluoride in toothpastes and mouthwashes for the purpose of inhibiting the development of caries [cavities] may, at the same time, accelerate the process of chronic, destructive periodontitis."
The concentrations of fluoride used in toothpaste are very high (1,000-1,500ppm). Considering the fact that fluoride is a suspected mutagen, and that many mutagens are also carcinogens (i.e. they cause cancer), there is some concern that fluoridated toothpaste may cause or contribute to oral cancer.
There are safer alternatives for protecting teeth than using a highly toxic compound like fluoride. In addition to non-fluoridated toothpastes, one alternative is xylitol, a natural sugar that is now being widely used in oral health programs throughout Scandinavia. Xylitol – which can be applied to the teeth via mints, gum, and toothpaste – has been found to be very effective in preventing tooth decay, and may even help remineralize teeth as well. A healthy diet, however, will always be the most important tool in the fight against tooth decay.
If your child is using infant formula, it is imperative to avoid making the formula with fluoridated tap water. Infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water delivers a very high dose of fluoride to a young baby. For instance, infant formula produced with fluoridated water contains 100 to 200 times more fluoride (1,000ppb) than is found naturally in breast milk (5-10ppb). In fact, while breast-fed infants receive the LOWEST body burden (mg/kg/day) in the population, they receive the HIGHEST body burden if they receive fluoridated formula.
Minimize consumption of processed beverages (e.g. soda and reconstituted juice). Soda and juice made from concentrate are often manufactured with fluoridated tap water, and hence, have fluoride levels similar to fluoridated water.
If you regularly drink non-organic wine or grape juice consider buying only organic varieties. Many commercially-grown grapes in the US are sprayed with a fluoride pesticide called Cryolite. The residues of this pesticide can result in high levels of fluoride in wine or grape juice. In the case of wine, if you don't want to spend the extra money buying organic, consider purchasing a European brand instead of a Californian brand, as Europe uses much less cryolite on its vineyards.
Be careful of drinking too much green or black tea. Tea almost always has elevated levels of fluoride and can contribute a substantial amount to one's total fluoride intake.
Minimize consumption of mechanically-deboned chicken. Mechanically deboned chicken (e.g. "Chicken McNuggets") has been found to contain elevated levels of fluoride due to the incorporation of ground bone particles (which are high in fluoride) into the meat.
If you live in a country which allows fluoridated salt to be sold, make sure that the salt you buy is unfluoridated. Consumption of fluoridated salt can greatly increase a person's fluoride exposure.
Check to see if any prescription medicines you are taking contain fluorine. If so, ask your doctor if there are any appropriate alternatives – as some fluorine-containing pharmaceuticals (e.g. Cipro) can metabolize into fluoride ion within the body, thereby increasing the body's exposure to fluoride.
If you are going to have surgery, ask your doctors if they can use a non-fluorinated anesthetic. Fluorinated anesthetics such as Enflurane, Isoflurane and Sevoflurane will produce high peak levels of fluoride in blood for up to 24 hours.
Avoid the use of teflon-coated pans. Teflon-coated pans may increase the fluoride content of food.
John Lee, MD, a physician in private practice has stated that elevated bilirubin levels can be reduced in Gilbert's syndrome by avoiding fluoridated water and other sources of fluoride. This physician has seen bilirubin levels rise again when fluoride has been reintroduced. Gilbert's syndrome may be due to a partial deficiency of the hepatic enzyme glucuronyl transferase. Fluoride, being an enzyme inhibitor, reduces the enzymes' activity even further. ["Fluoride Linked to Gilbert's Syndrome", Lee, John R., M.D., Cortlandt Forum, September 1990;101: pp.31-33]