Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in water resources, soil, and air. Moreover, it is an essential mineral that strengthens the bones and teeth in the body. Although fluoride comes with several benefits that help to prevent tooth decay, cavity, and bone disease, overconsumption of fluoride can lead to damaging severe effects.
Studies have shown a probability that fluoride, specifically from fluoridated water, can affect the IQ in children. This possibility is more likely to happen due to exposure to excess fluoride in utero. However, the existing research claims a mixed conclusion. Therefore, there is a need for high-quality studies to confirm the fact that fluoride alters the IQ levels in children.
Today’s article will highlight the studies that claim fluoride as a culprit for lowering the IQ levels in children. Furthermore, we will also take a look at the fluoride safety debate.
Fluoride is an essential mineral that strengthens the bones and teeth. It is naturally found in water resources such as oceans, lakes and rivers, soil, plants, rocks, and air. (1)
One of the prime factors that make fluoride an essential mineral is its cavity-fighting property. Additionally, fluoride protects the enamel and makes it acid-resistant. There are several fluoridated products and resources that can be used to fulfill the daily intake of fluoride. Some of them include –
- Fluoridated water
- Fluoride toothpaste/ mouthwash
- Milk/salt fluoridation
- Dietary fluoride tablets or drops
Fluoridated water is one of the standards and readily available resources of fluoride. In the United States, 0.7 parts per million of fluoride is usually added to the community water supplies. While fluoride may be an essential mineral, it can cause some side effects when consumed in large doses. Dental and skeletal fluorosis are common side effects.
Additionally, some research studies have claimed that water fluoridation can have a severe impact on the health of children and adults. Some of the health concerns are listed below –
- Low IQ score in children (2)
- Kidney disease
- Bone cancer
What are the effects of fluoride on a child’s IQ?
A research study publishes in the JAMA pediatrics claims a strong association between prenatal exposure of fluoride in pregnant mothers and a decrease in the IQ level of their child at the age of 3-4 years.
This study was conducted in six Canadian cities as a part of the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals program, which included pregnant mothers whose children were born between 2008 to 2012. This study took into consideration the expectant mother’s urinary concentration of fluoride as the base to determine fluoride exposure. (3)
40% of expectant mothers came from the cities that had an abundant supply of fluoridated water. The study revealed that the average urinary fluoride level in these expectant mothers was around 0.69 mg per liter, as compared to a merely 0.4 mg per liter of urinary fluoride in mothers who lived in cities without fluoridated water.
Furthermore, after controlling the confounding variables, researches stated that one mg per liter increase in the urinary fluoride level of a mother could lower the IQ of their son by approximately 4.5 points. Interestingly, the study also revealed that this association was not true for the daughters of these pregnant mothers. (4)
There is no evidence to explain the sex discrepancy, as noted during the research study. However, some speculations state that it could be due to the different ways in which boys and girls absorb environmental toxins in utero.
While this may be the only excepted study that claims the effects of prenatal fluoride exposure on lowering a child’s IQ, there is a need for high-standardized research to provide substantial clinical proof.
How can you manage excess fluoride exposure?
To manage control over fluoride exposure, it is necessary to understand the ideal dietary recommendations of fluoride. As mentioned before, fluoride is an essential mineral that helps to strengthen the bones and teeth.
The American Dental Association has specified optimal daily dietary requirements of fluoride, which may be beneficial for an individual. This requirement ranges from 2.0 – 2.2 mg for adults and 0.5 – 1.02 mg of fluoride for children between the age of five and fourteen years. (5) It is essential to keep a check on the types of fluoridated products you may consume regularly. If you are concerned about the fluoride intake, reduce the exposure by doing the following –
- Find an alternative to fluoridated water
- Use fluoride filters at home
- Use fluoride-free dental products
A note on Fluoride safety debate
Water fluoridation first began in the early 1950s as a large-scale process to provide optimal levels of fluoride to the people of the community. The main aim behind taking this global step was to reduce the incidence of caries and cavity formation, especially among the children. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics supports community water fluoridation and continues to recommend optimally fluoridated water to children. (6)
Although water fluoridation has been declared safe by many environmental organizations, studies have shown some side effects that may affect the health and well-being of children and adults. The research study mentioned above indicates a decrease in the IQ level of children due to prenatal exposure of fluoride. It concluded that the toxicity of fluoride is related to the dose and time of exposure.
Take away message
Fluoride is a natural mineral that is added to the community water supply to reduce the incidence of tooth decay and cavity. While the optimal levels of fluoride in water may be considered safe for the children and adults, exposure to high fluoride levels can lead to several health issues.
Recent studies have revealed a direct link between prenatal exposure of fluoride through drinking water and its association in reducing the IQ levels of those children between the age of three to four years. There has been a long-term debate that is still going on regarding the safety of fluoride. Therefore, we need high-standardized studies to prove the facts right and find out the safety of fluoride in association with low IQ in affected children.