Jack Crowther: As systemic poison, fluoride is an elusive target

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Jack Crowther, of Rutland, who is retired. He worked as a journalist and in corporate communications.

It is ironic that because fluoride is a “systemic” poison, affecting the body generally rather than in one specific way, the fight against community water fluoridation is made harder.

This seems contradictory. Why would a substance described in “Clinical Toxicity of Commercial Products” (Gosselin, Smith, and Hodge, 1984) as a “general protoplasmic poison” allow any defenders for the practice of fluoridation?

It is easy to specify a lethal dose of fluoride, as many a fluoride-poisoned rat, insect and pig worm could testify. But the harm from chronic ingestion of low-dose fluoride is harder to pin down and thereby easier to ignore or dismiss.

The damage from chronic, low-dose fluoride is uncertain and variable, affecting individuals, organs and body systems in scattershot patterns. This has allowed proponents of fluoridation, a random-dose form of mass medication, to cloud the air with partial truths, irrelevant distractions and tricks of language, all marshaled to make fluoride seem a “safe and effective” key to dental health.

When the National Research Council in 2006 called for more research into fluoride’s effects in a number of areas — the kidney, bone fractures, cancer and thyroid problems, to name a few — it demonstrated the challenge facing fluoridation critics. While the red flags of fluoride harm were everywhere, the hard evidence to close the case against fluoridation was often lacking, at least in the NRC’s view.

Each of us has the right to decide whether or not to take a drug, even if it is recommended by our local dentist.


Solid evidence to indict fluoridation continually emerges. But the dental and public health establishments, quietly supported by the fluoride-polluting and sugar industries, locked in to the pro-fluoridation doctrine nearly 70 years ago. They have too much at stake to back down.

Regardless of merit, science that exposes the dangers of fluoride and fluoridation will be the target of every trick in the propagandist’s playbook — from political intimidation to scurrilous discrediting of scientists who dare to speak out.

Fluoridation proponents seize on the gaps in research to assume a blanket, “there’s-no-proof-of-harm” stance. Only fluoride’s long history as a water additive allows it to escape the testing and monitoring standards required of drugs introduced today. Grandfathered in by the Public Health Service endorsement of 1950, fluoridation sails along with minimal scrutiny.

Reasonable caution would dictate that public drinking water, without fluoride added, would make sense until the jury of further research comes in with a verdict. But even if the risks of low-dose fluoride were judged acceptable, fluoridation would violate medical ethics. Each of us has the right to decide whether or not to take a drug, even if it is recommended by our local dentist.

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  • Karen Spencer

    Enough has been pinned down.

    – Fluoride causes or worsens inflammatory conditions from eczema to ulcerative colitis
    – Fluoride interferes in immune function causing or worsening everything from allergic anaphylaxis to cancer
    – Fluoride messes with thyroid hormones and in so doing creates life long disabilities
    – Fluoride enhances the absorption of lead and other sinister metals into bodies and brains
    – Fluoride consumption further damages the kidneys of those with kidney disease
    – Fluoride dosage can not be controlled in the individual when F- is in municipal water supplies
    – Fluoride accumulates in bones, causing or worsening the symptoms of arthritis.

    More power to you if fluoridation doesn’t bother you, but not the power to assume it’s safe for your neighbor with kidney disease, his pregnant wife or their diabetic daughter!

  • Don Dalton

    Thank you for this.

    There’s a larger lesson in this and that’s the power of propaganda, which today is termed “public relations.” Flouride isn’t a nutrient, it isn’t at all essential to the body, and in fact is a poison– yet is sold to us as safe and necessary. How can this be? PR, that’s how. A carefully orchestrated PR campaign can sell us flouride just as it can sell us opioids or windmills. It can, and does, sell us vaccines, which are extremely profitably, and it can make us fearful of the few who object to vaccines while far, far more bodies drop all around us from prescription opioid abuse– but we don’t have nearly the same vilification and fear of big pharma as we do of those very few who, in good conscience and exercising their right to self-determination, object to the mainstream PR on vaccines, do we? Think about it.

    • Don Dalton – Your statement that fluoride ions are, “in fact is a poison” is completely irrelevant. any substance is a poison in high enough exposure levels – even those that are beneficial or essential at low exposure levels, like oxygen, water, sodium, chlorine, iodine, potassium, caffeine, fats, etc., etc.

      Fluoridation opponents have no legitimate evidence to prove their self-inflicted fear of fluoride ions is legitimate, so they must try and scam the public into believing accepting their opinions by producing fear-laced propaganda. Unfortunately, fear frequently sells an idea or product far more effectively than a considered presentation of scientific evidence.

      What specific evidence can you produce that is sufficient to change the scientific consensus? Why have attempts by fluoridation opponents regularly failed for over 70 years?

  • Don Dalton

    If it’s not essential, then why do we need it? Are you telling us that without flouride, bones and teeth can’t develop properly? That sounds like it’s “essential,” but we know it is not.I don’t think there’s a shred of evidence that says that bones and teeth can’t develop properly without flouride. If there is, let’s see it.

    Arsenic is also present in the soil in small amounts, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it in rainwater too. Does that mean we should put larger amounts in our water?

  • David Fierstien

    Hilarious!! Salt is a protoplasmic poison. Have you ever eaten salt? (btw, so are oxygen, caffeine, and alcohol. So, the answer to your question is Yes. They are all protoplasmic poisons.)

  • Don Dalton

    Nice try, David. If dioxin occurs in breast milk (as it does), does that mean that it’s essential? Or is it, like many other adverse chemicals, there as a contaminant? If aluminum is in the body, is it essential? No it is not. It’s a contaminant, it isn’t essential in any bodily process and in fact it’s a toxin.

    As this article from the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) states, flouride is not in any natural human metabolic pathway. It’s not like vitamin C: if you don’t get vitamin C you die, because vitamin C is used in many metabolic pathways. Flouride? None.

    Flouride isn’t considered an essential nutrient, according to the National Academy (page 30)

    Here is the Institute of Medicine: “Nowhere in the report is it stated that fluoride is an essential nutrient.”

    I don’t understand why people are so desperate to put a known developmental neurotoxin into our water supply. If something is a developmental toxin, that means that it negatively affects the metabolic pathways of the unborn and of developing children. Why are we so crazy to do this? For teeth? How about: we hand out free toothpaste? How about: we have kids eat healthy and stay away from sugar? How about: we pay more attention to nutrition and less attention to medicating the population through the water supply, which is just plain stupid.

    Take as much flouride as you want– I really don’t care. Stop trying to force it on the rest of us.

  • Richard Weber

    if you go to my FB you can see three quarts of industrial chemical that I am getting out of my city water by distillation each month. the regional water board doesn’t know what it is and they keep referring me to my local distributor in order to identify the material , and the local distributor says he does not have a lab and has no way to analyze the sample and keeps referring me back to the water board

    • David Fierstien

      How much are you distilling to get 3 quarts, and why do you call it “industrial chemical?”

      Your local distributor, likely the municipality, is required, annually, to collect a plethora of samples for a battery of analysis, including for pesticides, herbicides, carbomates, disinfection byproducts, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like gasoline and other petroleum products, etc., etc., . If you are paying for your water, you have the right to see the results of those tests.

      I would encourage you to do so.

  • Don Dalton – Provide citations and quotes from the authors from any studies you believe prove that drinking optimally fluoridated water “is a developmental neurotoxin at levels children may be exposed to.” If their diet consisted of eating tubes of toothpaste

    Provide proof that there is any sort of money-conspiracy or any other devious collusion that has, according to anti-F claims, caused many thousands of members of the most recognized health and science organizations in the world to ignore what fluoridation opponents (FOs) claim to be obvious evidence that fluoridation is safe and effective – and abandon the 70+ year scientific consensus of relevant experts that fluoridation is, in fact, a safe and effective public health measure. An absurd claim like that requires considerable proof – don’t you think?

    The actual reason the overwhelming majority of scientists and health professionals accept the scientific evidence is because the “evidence” provided by FOs falls far short of providing high-quality, repeatable, relevant, appropriately interpreted studies – as demonstrated by the so-called
    “examples” provided by Karen Spencer like the Peckham et al., Malin, Till and other studies. Any scientist who would use studies like those to make serious health care decisions would be dangerous.

    What criteria do you use to “actually listen to both sides and then to decide for [yourself]” which position on fluoridation is legitimate?

    Do you have the science and health training and experience to actually evaluate the primary evidence or have you relied in any way on the opinions and conclusions of others to make your decision?

    Community water fluoridation, drinking water disinfection and vaccination are all public health initiatives with extremely strong supporting evidence that confirms the scientific consensus of relevant experts that they are safe and effective – and that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

    FOs, anti-vaxxers, and those who dislike water disinfection base their selection and evaluation of evidence on their pre-existing moral/ethical/non-science belief that they have the right to decide what is added to their drinking water or injected into their bodies (not some government/health agencies). All supporting “evidence” must be collected and edited and evaluated to confirm that pre-existing belief.

  • Don Dalton

    I don’t have the time or energy to refute this. The website is an excellent source of information on the opposing side, and should be utilized by those who truly wish to understand the other side of the issue.

    If about half the population opposes water flouridation, why are earth are people so insistent on it? Let it go. Take all the flouride you want but leave the rest of us alone, and stop advocating for medicating the population through the water supply, which is unethical. You want people to take flouride? Give them flouride pills and let them decide whether or not they want to take them. Or make bottled water with high flouride concentration if you’re so keen on this.

    “Fluoride is not essential for human growth and development.” (page4)

    “[F]luoride is no longer considered an essential factor for human growth and development…” (page 30)

    “These contradictory results do not justify a classification of fluorine as an essential element, according to accepted standards.” (page 235)

    • David Fierstien

      Don, you say about half the people oppose water fluoridation. That is not correct. You are listening to a very loud vocal minority fringe element who oppose water fluoridation. Allow me to illustrate.

      The Fluoride Action Network (fluoridealert – same thing) has a list of professionals, about 4600, who have signed the Opposition to Fluoridation Statement. You must be aware of that statement, since you seem to frequent that website.

      In the U.S. there are over 860,000 physicians, 2.8 million nurses, nearly 170,000 dentists and about 3.2 million PhD’s, or about 7 million. If the list is accurate, then 0.064% or 1 in every 1555 oppose fluoridation. In other words, 99.936% of Health Care and other Professionals in this country are NOT opposed to water fluoridation.

      I understand that about 25% of the US list of Professionals Opposed to fluoridation are from outside the US, so the actual percentages opposing fluoridation might be even lower if that is the case.

      But to answer your question ( . . why are earth are people so insistent on it?) , I don’t like the idea of a fringe element hijacking a proven health initiative because they have done a few “Google searches” on some anti-fluoride websites run by organizations whose sole existence is dependent upon creating controversy where no controversy actually exists. And now followers of those fringe websites consider themselves experts in an area that every credible health organization in the world fully supports. It is dangerous to hand over the reigns of health decisions to unqualified people.

      • Don Dalton

        Let us then bow down to our esteemed health authorities and follow whatever they dictate. Let us dismiss any information that doesn’t issue from our incorruptible and incontrovertible authorities, who exist to guide us and protect us. Let us not fall into the sin of thinking for ourselves. Amen.

        • David Fierstien

          Your comment is irrelevant to the fact that you were shown to be wrong when you suggested that about “half the people oppose water fluoridation.”

          • Don Dalton

            Let’s talk science. It doesn’t matter what the consensus says, what the ADA says or any other esteemed institution says. Only the facts matter. What does fluoride do in the body? It replaces the the naturally occurring OH ion in hydroxyapatite, part of the bone mineralization process, to form fluorohydroxyapatite. The OH ion may be replaced by fluorine, chlorine, or carbonite. It’s hypothesized that this fluorohydroxyapatite makes bones stronger, but whatever the fluorohydroxyapatite is doing for teeth, there’s significant evidence that it’s harming the structural bones Note that it makes no difference whether these references to the science are from FAN or any other place: the origin of the reference has absolutely no bearing on the validity of the reference. We judge the reference, not the origin of the reference.

            So then it’s true that many list fluoride as “beneficial,” and some might even make the mistake of saying that fluoride is “essential.” It is NOT essential: it simply replaces the OH ion in the mineralization process. Note that fluoride isn’t necessary for this mineralization; the mineralzation will proceed without it, so long as the OH ion is present, which it is in abundance. Note also that fluoride provides no other function in the body: the claim that it’s essential for life is wishful thinking by those who promote water fluoridation. I challenge you to provide documentation of actual, specific metabolic pathways which depend upon fluoride. You will not be able to because there are none. Fluoride as essential is the type of “science” that pro-fluoridation proponents are pushing.

          • David Fierstien

            Don, you say, ” there’s significant evidence that it’s harming the structural bones.”

            No there isn’t. Show me one documented case of any human being who has ever had any harm to the structure of their bones because they drank optimally fluoridated water . . even for as much as a lifetime.

            Since no such person exists, I won’t hold my breath for an answer.

            Let’s talk science. All science is based on empirical evidence. You understand that, right? Empirical evidence would be an actual person who has been harmed in some way because they drank optimally fluoridated water . . even for as much as a lifetime.

            No person has ever been harmed from the fluoride in optimally fluoridated water. Even after 70 years and hundreds of millions of people drinking it.

            The science says optimally fluoridated water is safe.

          • David Fierstien

            Don, you say, “I challenge you to provide documentation of actual, specific metabolic pathways which depend upon fluoride.”

            Ok. From the Wikipedia entry for dietary minerals:

            ““Fluorine (as Fluoride) is not generally considered an essential mineral element because humans do not require it for growth or to sustain life. However, if one considers the prevention of dental cavities an important criterion in determining essentiality, then fluoride might well be considered an essential trace element.”

            With that in mind, we move to the Politifact entry: “Dentists and the ADA agree: Ignoring a toothache could potentially kill you.”

            From the article:

            “While the number of deaths aren’t regularly examined, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Endodontics offered a quick cross-section of the issue based on one kind of condition. Researchers found that between 2000 and 2008, there were more than 61,000 hospitalizations nationally for periapical abscesses, an infection at the tip of a tooth’s root that is a common symptom of untreated tooth decay.

            Of those 61,000-plus stays, 66 patients died.

            Our ruling

            Cortes said, “Anyone can die of a toothache.”

            It’s not so much that you’ll die of pain, of course, but dentists and research confirm that an untreated abscess can infect other parts of the body, either through the bones or the bloodstream. Most people won’t die from a toothache, but it’s a condition that if left untreated can lead to the worst: a fatal result.

            We rate the statement True.”

            Therefore, prevention of dental cavities is without doubt an important criterion in determining essentiality, when dental decay itself can lead to death.

            Since fluoride does exist in all drinking water, . . . and since humans have evolved drinking fluoride in water since the human species began . . . drinking fluoridated water is completely natural for human beings.

            Since fluoridated water does aid in the prevention of dental decay . . and since dental decay can be fatal, fluoride can be considered essential.

  • Don Dalton

    Which is???

  • David Fierstien

    Got a link? There are about 100 Richard Webers on FB

  • Michael Dougherty

    Reminder: we maintain a 1,000 character limit on all posts. Please keep your comment concise. Thanks!

  • Don Dalton

    I don’t trust the CDC, or for that matter many mainstream health organizations, which I believe are too closely aligned with pharmaceutical interests. There is evidence to back this up; for example, the fact that the CDC receives about 25% of its funding from industry through the CDC foundation, according to the BMJ. Is the CDC working for the health of the people or is it working for industry, and is it confused about who it works for?

    I’ve mentioned several times, throughout the years, that the source of flouride put in water supplies is industrial waste products, particularly from phosphate mining. No one has ever even attempted to prove that this is not true. Does this not look like a scam to you?

    Regardless, putting flouride in water means people have no choice but to drink it. Many people don’t want it– whether it’s 15% or 50% doesn’t matter. Stop trying to force your idea of medication on the rest of us. Anyone who wants flouride is free to take as much as they want; anyone who doesn’t want it shouldn’t have it forced into their water.

    Why are you so keen on forcing this on people? What next, we put valium in the water “for the greater good”? I think vitamin C is great, but I’m completely opposed to putting it in our water supply. Vitamin C is far more essential than flouride isn’t.

  • John Teagle – Your point? The level of fluoride ions in optimally fluoridated water is 0.7 mg/l, and there is no legitimate evidence that proves drinking optimally fluoridated water causes any harm.

  • Don Dalton

    1) I don’t care. Consensus isn’t science.
    2) Everyone gets funded by someone. If you disagree with FAN, attack the science, not the funding. How about someone responding to the huge economic incentive to make flouride an essential nutrient, so that instead of being a toxic waste for the phosphate mining industry, it now becomes a profitable commodity? We know that Edward Bernays, the father of modern PR, went to work on the problem of flouride, so was that his solution? Sell it as a nutrient?

  • Don Dalton

    It is wrong to medicate the population through the water supply. Why don’t we put vitamin C in the water? It has many health benefits and there’s virtually no toxic dose. Medicating the water supply is bad policy. Chlorination is one thing: it’s there to treat the water and make it safe.

    Want oral health? How about stop eating so many sweets and brush your teeth?

  • David Fierstien

    If you’ve corresponded with Grandjean, you must know that, regarding his own research, he said, ““These results do not allow us to make any judgment regarding possible levels of risk at levels of exposure typical for water fluoridation in the U.S.”

    Why would FAN include something – irrelevant – that does “not allow us to make any judgment regarding possible risks” from water fluoridation in the U.S., when they are arguing against water fluoridation in the U.S.? Obviously, the answer is that they want to scare you into buying somebody’s water filter by using irrelevant science to make a case.

    Show me one documented case of any human being who was ever harmed in any way because they drank optimally fluoridated water . . even for as much as a lifetime. Since no such person exists, I early await your non-answer.

    And . . no, you don’t have a choice about having fluoride in your drinking water. If you live on Earth, you never had a choice. Fluoride already exists in all drinking water. You’ve been drinking it your entire life. It wasn’t until you started googling fluridealert that it started to bother you. I guess they’re working their magic on you.