• Where do the fluoridation chemicals added to water come from?

The main chemicals used to fluoridate drinking water are known as “silicofluorides” (i.e., fluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate). These chemicals are not pharmaceutical-grade fluoride products; they are unprocessed industrial by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry. These silicofluorides undergo no purification procedures, and therefore contain contaminants which include arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium.
Fluorosilicic acid is the most common chemical used in the fluoridation of scheme drinking water in Western Australia and is largely sourced from CSBP Kwinana.

  • Why are fluoridation chemicals added to the tap water?

A very good question considering tooth decay is a a non-waterborne disease.

  • Is fluoridated water safe for babies and infants?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), children under 1 year of age should not receive infant formula made with fluoridated water. Babies exposed to fluoridated water are at high risk of developing dental fluorosis – a tooth defect caused by fluoride-induced cell damage within the teeth.
Other harm is also likely. For example, according to the US National Research Council, “it is apparent that fluorides can interfere with the functions of the brain.” The danger that fluoride poses to the brain is likely greatest during fetal and infant development, as during this time the barrier which protects the child’s brain from environmental toxins is not yet fully formed.
A study by Dr Kathleen Thiessen also shows that from tap water alone, with water fluoridated at 0.8ppm, many infants and children will have fluoride intakes at levels that are known to cause harm.

Pregnant women should avoid ingesting fluoride. It has been shown that 75% of the maternal dietary fluoride intake is passed to the developing child where it accumulates in the child’s developing bones and organs.

  • Why is fluoride different to other water treatment chemicals?

Water treatment chemicals are added to the water supply to treat the water – to make drinking water safe to consume. Fluoride is the only chemical added to treat the people who consume the water, rather than the water itself.
Fluoridating water supplies is therefore a form of mass medication, which is why most European countries have rejected the practice.

  • Isn’t delivering a medication via the water supply a good thing?

There are many problems associated with delivering a medication using the public water supply:
There is no way to control who gets the treatment.
There is no way to control how much is ingested.
There is no medical follow up.
There is no monitoring of adverse effects.
It is a violation of the individual’s right to informed consent to medication

  • Do we need fluoride?

It is now well established that fluoride is not an essential nutrient. This means that no human disease – including tooth decay – will result from a “deficiency” of fluoride. Fluoridating water supplies is therefore different than adding iodine to salt. Unlike fluoride, iodine is an essential nutrient (the body needs iodine to ensure the proper functioning of the thyroid gland). No such necessity exists for fluoride.

  • Doesn’t everyone fluoridate their water?

Most developed nations in the world have rejected fluoridation, including 97% of Western Europe. Countries that have rejected fluoridation include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland.

In the few countries that still fluoridate public water supplies, fluoridation is being removed community by community. Many communities in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have stopped fluoridation in the past few years, and many more communities are campaigning for its removal.

Notably, in July 2013 the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that new regulations require Israel to stop adding fluoride chemicals into public water supplies by 2014.

  • How do I know if my tap water is fluoridated?

Fluoridated water will not taste or smell any differently than non-fluoridated water and so if you are unsure, it is important to find out from your water supplier if your tap water contains fluoridation chemicals.
Around 92% of Western Australians receive artificially fluoridated water. For more info on fluoridation in WA, see here.

  • Does fluoride occur naturally in water?

As a general rule, the only fresh water with high levels of fluoride (other than waters polluted by fluoride-emitting industries) is water derived from deep wells. Rather than being something to celebrate, high levels of naturally occurring fluorides have wreaked havoc on tens of millions of people’s health around the world. People consuming water with naturally high levels of fluoride have been found to suffer serious health ailments including disfiguring tooth damage, bone disease, ulcers, reduced IQ, thyroid disease, and infertility. Because of this, international organizations like UNICEF assist developing nations in finding ways of removing fluoride from the water.

Thankfully, most fresh water supplies contain very low levels of fluoride. The average level of fluoride in unpolluted fresh water is less than 0.1 ppm, which is about 10 times less than the levels added to water in fluoridation programs (0.7 to 1.2 ppm). The frequent claim, therefore, that “nature thought of fluoridation first” does not withstand scrutiny.

It is also important to understand the difference in chemicals. Naturally occurring fluoride is typically calcium fluoride, while the chemical added to water is completely different.

For more info on the particular compound added to water supplies, see here.

  • Does fluoridated water reduce tooth decay?

If water fluoridation has a benefit, it is a minimal one. Recent large-scale studies from the United States have found little practical or statistical difference in tooth decay rates among children living in fluoridated versus non-fluoridated areas. In addition, data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that tooth decay rates have declined just as rapidly in non-fluoridated western countries as they have in fluoridated western countries.

  • Does fluoride need to be swallowed in order to prevent tooth decay?

Most dental researchers now concede that fluoride’s primary benefit comes from direct topical contact with the teeth, not from ingestion. There is no need to swallow fluoride to prevent tooth decay, whether in water or tablet form.
It is hard to overstate the importance of this point to the fluoride debate, particularly when considering that fluoride’s risks come primarily from ingestion.

  • What are the risks from swallowing fluoride?

Fluoride has long been known to be a very toxic substance. This is why, like arsenic, fluoride has been used in pesticides and rodenticides (to kill rats, insects, etc). It is also why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires that all fluoride toothpaste sold in the U.S. carry a poison warning that instructs users to contact the Poison Control Center if they swallow more than used for brushing.

In Australia fluoridated toothpastes carry the warnings “Do Not Swallow” and “Do not use for children 6 years of age or less” on product packaging but are not required to have a poison warning despite the fact that they contain sodium fluoride – a poison!!
Excessive fluoride exposure is well known to cause a painful bone disease (skeletal fluorosis), as well as a discoloration of the teeth known as dental fluorosis. Excessive fluoride exposure has also been linked to a range of other chronic ailments including arthritis, bone fragility, dental fluorosis, glucose intolerance, gastrointestinal distress, thyroid disease, and possibly cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

While the lowest doses that cause some of these effects are not yet well defined, it is clear that certain subsets of the population are particularly vulnerable to fluoride’s toxicity. Populations that have heightened susceptibility to fluoride include infants, individuals with kidney disease, individuals with nutrient deficiencies (particularly calcium and iodine), and individuals with medical conditions that cause excessive thirst.

  • Is fluoridated water safe for people with kidney disease?

Recent research has found that fluoridated water can contribute to the development of painful bone disorders in people with advanced kidney disease.

  • Will boiling the fluoridated water remove the fluoride?

This is true for chlorine, but fluoride is not removed by boiling fluoridated tap water. Boiling the water only causes the fluoride in the water to become more concentrated.

  • How can I avoid fluoride?

If you live in a community that fluoridates its water supply you may be able to reduce ingesting fluoride in your own home but you need to be aware that you will have little choice outside of your home environment.

Unfortunately fluoride is very difficult to filter out of your drinking water.
You can collect rain water or spring water if available, or use a reverse osmosis filtration system, or water distiller to filter your tap water.

All other common filters, such as water jugs with activated carbon filters, do not filter out fluoride.

Other common sources of fluoride are toothpaste, soft drinks, wine & grape juice, green & black tea, processed chicken, and some medications. Teflon coated pots and pans also contain fluoride, and can leach into food.
You can find more information on these topics on our page Reducing Fluoride Intake.