U.S. Wants to Reduce Fluoride in Drinking Water
Officials Call for Lower Fluoride Levels to Prevent Dental Problems Due to Excess Fluoride
Sources of Fluoride Exposure
Fluoridation was introduced into U.S. drinking water supplies in 1945. By 2008, 64% of the U.S. population had access to community water fluoridation, says the HHS.
But fluoride is now found not only in toothpaste and drinking water, according to HHS, but also in mouth rinses, prescription fluoride supplements, and fluoride treatments applied in dental offices. It's found in infant formulas prepared with fluoridated water and in other beverages.
But fluoride toothpaste along with fluoride in drinking water do deserve most of the credit for the decline in tooth decay in recent decades in the U.S., HHS officials emphasize.
As the fluoride intake has increased, however, so has the number of children with dental fluorosis.
According to the HHS, national surveys conducted from 1999 to 2004 show an upswing in the prevalence of the condition, although mostly in very mild or mild forms.
The condition was found more in younger people than older people, with about 41% of teens age 12 to 15 affected, the surveys found.
The effects of excess fluoride aren't just a dental concern, says Houlihan.
Some data suggest that excess fluoride may also be linked with skeletal bone damage, she says, and possibly hormone disruption. "It has also been deemed an emerging neurotoxin."
As a result, she suggests the entire family, not just those with children, may want to assess their fluoride exposure.
How to Reduce Fluoride Exposure
What can those who want to reduce fluoride exposure now do?
"Bottled water is not the answer," Houlihan says. "It often also contains fluoride." (If it's not listed on the label, you can call the manufacturer and ask what the level is.)
Among the other steps she suggests to reduce fluoride exposure:
- Learn how much fluoride is in your tap water. Call your local water municipality. The levels vary from city to city.
- If it's above 0.7 milligrams per liter, the new proposed recommendation, you could consider filtering your water.
- For infants on formula, consider using fluoride-free water to reconstitute their formula.