Large-scale fluoridation of US public water utilities has been a source of lingering controversy since the inception of the program in 1940’s Michigan. While the overall program has been both scientifically and legally demonstrated to serve the public good by helping to prevent dental cavities, the potential side-effects caused by over-exposure of fluoride are hard to ignore.
Arguments Against Fluoridation
Ethical Concerns of Mass Medication
The ethical outcry against CWS (community water system) fluoridation began with the program itself. [source] US courts have consistently upheld that the public health benefits are based on sound scientific research and far outweigh any potential detriment. However, the argument that an individual cannot simply choose another municipal water provider – one which does not fluoridate its water – is a valid point of concern.
Dental and Skeletal Fluorosis
Dental and skeletal fluorosis are two separate diseases caused by overexposure to environmental fluorine. Dental fluorosis is primarily cosmetic in nature, presenting as “white stains” or streaks on the teeth in mild cases and as brown discoloration and pitting of the enamel in severe cases. [source] Skeletal fluorosis, a much more severe malady, presents with stiffness of joints, calcification of ligaments, muscle wasting and other symptoms. [source] (Both of these diseases are caused by exposure to fluoride ions in excess of what is recommended by the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institute of Heath.)
Toxicity of the Fluoride Ion
The toxicity of the fluoride ion is well-documented. [source] While symptoms may in rare cases be delayed, acute fluoride poisoning generally presents within minutes, producing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and nerve malfunction (paresthesia.)
Fluoride poisoning occurs most frequently from exposure to and ingestion of insect and rodent poisons, but has also been observed in areas which have high levels of naturally occurring fluoride ions in the groundwater. [source] At the current 0.7mg/L water used for CWS fluoridation in US, a 75kg adult would have to drink 321 liters of water in a day to reach the threshold dose of 3 mg/kg of body weight.
However, improper implementation of fluoride in CWS can result in levels far exceeding the recommended daily dose. One such incident in Alaska in 1992 resulted in 262 reported illnesses and 1 death – the direct result of faulty operation of a fluoride pump in a low volume (<6400 liter) closed water tank. [source]
Decreased Cognitive Development in Children
Data collected from studies performed in China over the past several years have returned disturbing results regarding the effects of fluoride on brain development in children. In certain locations, naturally-occurring fluoride in well water significantly exceed 1.0 mg/L. Children living in these areas scored an average of 7 points lower on IQ tests than children who where not exposed to high concentrations of fluoride. [source]
While the recommended 0.7 mg/L used in US public water systems is generally considered safe, the potential for human error or mechanical malfunction are still legitimate concerns for many people.
Fortunately there are several at-home methods for removing fluoride from your family’s drinking water or avoiding it altogether.
Solutions for Fluoride Removal
Big Berkey Drinking Water Filtration System
The Big Berkey Filtration System is a sleek and attractive stand-alone counter top unit with no plugs or plumbing hook-ups.
Unit is made of high-grade stainless steel, not plastic. (You’ll never have to worry about your drinking water taking on that yummy ‘plasticy flavor’ from sitting in a pitcher for too long.)
It uses 4 cleanable, self-sterilizing filters for broad-spectrum removal of cysts, bacteria and other parasites as well as pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals in addition to fluoride
The Big Berkey will not filter out beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium.
This system is also great on-the-go for filtering contaminants from outdoor water supplies such as rivers, lakes and streams.
Berkey’s customer service is top-notch. Any problems with the equipment are addressed quickly and effectively, usually at no cost to the consumer.
The Berkey system and replacement filters may be cost-prohibitive for some people.
Filters may wear out faster than those used in other types of filtration systems.
All-in-all this system has excellent reviews and the highest ratio of pros versus cons, therefore this is our best recommendation for fluoride removal. The Berkey Drinking Water Filtration System may be ordered from this page on Amazon.
Reverse Osmosis Filtration
Reverse osmosis offers thorough and effective removal of the largest percentage of contaminants (including microbes, parasites, heavy metals and other toxic elements like fluoride) of any filtration system.
Convenient under-sink mount filters tap water before it leaves the spigot. May also be hooked up to your ice maker.
Most are fairly easy to install.
Filters are long-lived – up to one year.
Water produced from reverse osmosis tastes very clean and pure.
Reverse osmosis also removes beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium from drinking water.
Systems waste more water than they filter for drinking.
Filtration is very slow and may be frustrating for some people.
Reverse osmosis works great for removing fluoride and other contaminants from drinking water. The wasted water and filtering out of beneficial minerals prevents this from being our top pick, however if the benefits of this filtration system appeal to you, the APEC 5-Stage RO Filter System is one of the best under-sink units available.
Activated Alumina Filtration
Activated alumina offers very efficient fluoride removal – to <0.1 ppm.
Can be installed as a counter top water filtration system attached directly to the tap.
System and filters are less expensive than other forms of fluoride filtration.
Effects of activated alumina are lessened when filtering warmer water or water with acidity below 5.5 pH.
Fluoride removal is dependent on slower water flow, therefore low water pressure may be a point of frustration with this system.
Filters have shorter lifespans than many other types of filtration.
Activated alumina is an effective low-cost option for filtration of fluoride from drinking water. You can purchase an activated alumina filtration system from this page.
Distillation offers consistently pure water from any source whether it be the kitchen tap, well pump, stream behind your house or even the ocean.
This method works by boiling water thus it requires no electricity to operate.
Made of high-quality heavy duty stainless steel to resist corrosion.
After the initial investment, distillation is the least expensive method of fluoride removal.
Distillation strips water of beneficial minerals in addition to removing harmful contaminants.
This method is very slow, producing an average of only one half gallon per hour.
At-home distillation is versatile, consistent and reliable choice for removing fluoride from drinking water. If this option interests you, check out this Portable Water Distiller by Survival Still.
Wells are an efficient source of natural mineral water.
After the initial investment of having a well drilled, this is a very low-cost water source.
No dependency on municipal water companies.
Well water cannot be tested for fluoride and other contaminants until after the well is drilled.
Well water containing fluoride or other harmful elements will still require a filtration system to be potable.
If you enjoy mineral water, having a well on your property can be a very rewarding experience. However, this is a hit-or-miss way to avoid fluoridated water. If you are interested in possibly drilling a well, you may want to first inquire with other well owners in your immediate vicinity to see if they have had (or would be willing to have) testing done to determine the mineral content of their water.
Bottled water is convenient, portable, and available just about everywhere.
With most companies, it is possible for consumers to do a little bit of research and find out a lot about where the water comes from and how it is treated prior to bottling, as well as the mineral content.
Many bottled waters (even spring water!) contain more fluoride and other contaminants than municipal tap water.
The mineral content of bottled water is generally not clearly presented on packaging.
The packaging itself may contaminate drinking water with other harmful chemicals.
Empty water bottles account for a huge amount of waste in the world’s landfills and require fossil fuels to produce.
Buying bottled water is expensive.
While some bottled waters are free of fluoride, it is our least recommended option. Bottled water offers unparalleled convenience, however the cons far outweigh the pros. Instead of paying for plastic bottle after plastic bottle, consider filling up one of these stainless steel canteens with filtered water from your kitchen tap to carry with you when you go out. You’ll be helping the environment and improving your health at the same time!
Further Reading: 10 Hidden Sources of Toxins Lurking In Your Kitchen & Pantry