I know it’s often said the “third time’s the charm”, but really it’s just getting old at this point. Fluoridation opponents are once again trotting out the tired canard of community water fluoridation negatively impacting brain function and intelligence. In a post titled Can Fluoride Lower Human Intelligence?, Sayer Ji of GreenMedInfo, writes,
Is fluoride a potential cause of lowering of IQ in our children? Certainly those who advocate for consuming it therapeutically, without acknowledging its well-known adverse health effects, may themselves be suffering from a fluoride-induced deficiency of intelligence.
After all, is it intelligent to ignore the evidence supporting a hard and fast connection between increased fluoride exposure and lower IQ?
Accusations of low intelligence of fluoridation proponents are nothing new, but I have not seen actual evidence of this childish claim. I have, however, noted an alarming lack of reading comprehension among a number of vocal fluoridation opponents. As evidence of this “hard and fast connection” between fluoride and intelligence Ji cites a 2008 paper titled Fluoride and children’s intelligence: a meta-analysis. This paper was a meta-analysis of 16 papers published over the last 20 years in regards to fluoride exposure in China and impacts on brain development and intelligence. The paper reports,
Sixteen case-control studies that assessed the development of low IQ in children who had been exposed to fluoride earlier in their life were included in this review. A qualitative review of the studies found a consistent and strong association between the exposure to fluoride and low IQ. The meta-analyses of the case-control studies estimated that the odds ratio of IQ in endemic fluoride areas compared with nonfluoride areas or slight fluoride areas. The summarized weighted mean difference is -4.97 (95%confidence interval [CI] = -5.58 to -4.36; p<0.01) using a fixed-effect model and -5.03 (95%CI = -6.51 to 3.55; p<0.01) using a random-effect model, which means that children who live in a fluorosis area have five times higher odds of developing low IQ than those who live in a nonfluorosis area or a slight fluorosis area.
The key point Ji is ignoring here is that the authors of the study were investigating the effects of living in high endemic fluoride areas with typical fluoride levels occurring at many times the approved amounts used in community fluoridation programs. The issue of endemic fluorosis is a problem in a number of nations, especially in China, where naturally occurring fluoride in the groundwater and pollution from coal create a dangerous situation.
As said before, the use of studies done on the health dangers of high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in groundwater, exposure to industrial pollution, and occupational fluoride exposure as “evidence” against the controlled use of dental fluoride and water fluoridation programs is a common tactic among community fluoridation opponents. I feel I must stress why this issue is so important to me. Fluoride is a social justice issue. Endemic fluorosis disproportionately affects the poor in developing nations, while fear-based efforts to stop community fluoridation programs disproportionately affect the poor in developed nations. While anti-fluoridation activists and organizations such as the Fluoride Action Network like to position themselves as “safe-water” advocates, their focus is entirely on stopping community water fluoridation in developed nations. It is nothing short of hypocritical and irresponsible when organizations such as this hold out study after study on the harms of endemic fluorosis in developing nations while doing nothing to help the people in such situations but instead misdirect the concern to safe community water fluoridation programs in developed nations. Fluorosis is a real problem that affects real people, but these people are not the focus of the fluoride fearmongers. If fluoridation opponents really want to do some good they can support organizations such as Frank Water which help to provide “safe drinking water for the world’s poorest communities” by setting up sustainable filtration programs in areas with bacteriological and fluoride contamination. Their work in India, a fluorosis hotspot, has resulted in safe drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people who now have a brighter future. It is projects like this that are doing the real good, spreading fear and misinformation, however, helps no one. If you enjoyed this post please consider donating what you can to Frank Water or a similar charity of your choice, let’s put the focus where it really matters.