Fluoride was introduced to water supplies decades ago as a method of battling tooth decay. Since being introduced to Beaconsfield, Tasmania in 1953, the use of fluoride in drinking water has crept up steadily in Australia. Currently, the state or territory with the lowest level of artificially fluoridated water is the Northern Territory at 70%. Other states and territories have had between 83 and 100% of their water supply affected.
This hasn’t gained much media attention or public scrutiny other than a number of anti-fluoridation action groups. However, a new study emerging from Harvard builds on previous work that shows we could indeed be facing some harmful effects due to water fluoridation.
Since it published a study in 2006 linking fluoridated water to lowered IQ levels in children, a number of Harvard researchers have held concerns around chemical exposure and neurotoxicity and have pointed their research in such a direction. Among them are the authors of a recent study, released in 2014 in the Harvard journal Lancet, which pointed the proverbial microscope at an apparent increase in cognitive disorders such as ADHD, autism and dyslexia amongst others.
The study’s authors claim that we are facing a neurotoxicity pandemic that requires a global strategy in response.
“Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the ICAHN School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) say that along with these numerous environmental toxins, fluoridated water is adding to the higher incident of both cognitive and behavioural disorders.
Two of the main researchers involved in the study, Philippe Grandjean from HSPH and Philip Landrigan from ISMMS, say that incidences of chemical related neurodevelopmental disorders have doubled over the past seven years from six to 12 .”
The study does admit that there are numerous chemicals that may be contributing to the mix, and thus fluoride isn’t the only culprit. The problem, according to Grandjean and Landrigan, is that many of these chemicals are untested before being approved by the various regulatory bodies without truly knowing their long-term ramifications on human health and especially the unique vulnerability of the developing brain (in utero). They do hold that fluoride is a definite culprit though, which should prompt concerns given the high level of fluoridated drinking water in Australia.
Previous work by the study’s authors involved ”a meta-analysis of 27 cross-sectional studies of children exposed to fluoride in drinking water, mainly from China.” It suggested an average IQ decrement of about seven points in children exposed to raised fluoride concentrations .
The authors of the study held concerns for pesticides, herbicides and solvents, especially maternal exposure during pregnancy. But returning to the topic of the study, they found that:
“Perfluorinated compounds, such as perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulphonate, are highly persistent in the environment and in the human body, and seem to be neurotoxic. Emerging epidemiological evidence suggests that these compounds might indeed impede neurobehavioural development.
They go on to emphasise that:
The total number of neurotoxic substances now recognised almost certainly represents an underestimate of the true number of developmental neurotoxins that have been released into the global environment. Our very great concern is that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognised toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviours, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies, perhaps most seriously in developing countries. A new framework of action is needed.”