Dentists: Is There a Relationship Between Children’s IQ and Fluoride?

Is There a Relationship Between Children's IQ and FluorideWhile Portland, Oregon, the second-largest city in the country without fluoride in the water, is considering adding fluoride to their water supply, a Harvard study has been published stating that fluoride impacts children’s neurodevelopment.

The objective of the Harvard study was to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies to investigate the effects of increased fluoride exposure and delayed neurobehavioral development.

The researchers searched the MEDLINE, EMBASE, Water Resources Abstracts, and TOXNET databases through 2011 for eligible studies. They also searched the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) database, as many oral health studies on fluoride neurotoxicity have been published in Chinese journals only.

Lead author Anna Choi, research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH, states, “Although fluoride may cause neurotoxicity in animal models and acute fluoride poisoning causes neurotoxicity in adults, very little is known of its effects on children’s neurodevelopment.”

In total, the study identified 27 eligible epidemiological studies with high and reference exposures, endpoints of IQ scores or related cognitive function measures with means and variances for the two exposure groups.

The results of their study reveals that the standardized weighted mean difference in IQ score between exposed and reference populations was -0.45 (95% CI -0.56 to -0.35) using a random-effects model. Thus, children in high fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low fluoride areas. Subgroup and sensitivity analyses also indicated inverse associations, although the substantial heterogeneity did not appear to decrease.

The study reviewed data based on exposure to high water fluoride levels — not levels found in U.S. drinking water, which is less than 1 part per million.

The study was published online in Environmental Health Perspectives on July 20, 2012.

Dentists, do you think there is a relationship between cognitive function and fluoride?

(Source: Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis)

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  • According to Dr. Paul Connett, Co-Author of “The Case Against Fluoride,: There are several reasons why this Harvard review is very important.

    the lead author Philip Grandjean is very well respected on public
    issues. Second, it appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives
    (EHP) one
    of the world’s leading environmental health journals. Third,
    this journal
    (EHP) is published by the National Institute of
    Environmental Health
    Sciences, which is the primary research body of the
    NIH – the key promoter
    of fluoridation. So at a time when both the NIH
    and the EPA are reviewing
    fluoride’s toxicity how can they continue to
    ignore the fact that fluoride
    may be lowering IQ of children? How long
    can the EPA Office of Water
    continue to maintain that severe dental
    fluorosis is the MOST SENSITIVE end
    point of fluoride’s toxicity,
    unless they subscribe to the FICTION that all
    the children in these IQ
    studies had SEVERE DENTAL FLUOROSIS – which they
    certainly did not?
    Having visited two of the villages studied in China
    (Xiang et al, 2003)
    I can emphatically state that not all the children in
    the high fluoride
    village had severe dental fluorosis.

    In reality the
    evidence that fluoride lowers IQ is even stronger than
    the Harvard review
    states. There are now 33 studies which show this
    association (some newly
    translated). Moreover three of the studies are
    strengthened by finding an
    association with fluoride levels in the urine
    and plasma which is a measure
    of INDIVIDUAL exposure to fluoride.

    Typically, the only response from
    pro-fluoridation forces (including the
    “respected” Pew Trust ) is public
    relations puffery. Instead of
    criticizing the methodology of the IQ studies
    (all 33?) they would do
    better to spend their money financing studies on IQ
    in the US comparing
    children with different levels of dental fluorosis – to
    date there have
    been NONE! So much for their science.

  • M

    That was not a “Harvard study.”  Two people based at Harvard simply reviewed a number of studies from China, Iran and Mongolia.  What NYSCOF neglects to tell you (below) is that the fluoride levels tested in those countries were way higher than the ones used in the U.S. to fluoridate community water systems.  In fact, Philip Grandjean and the others who analyzed these studies point out that the fluoride levels in the 3 foreign countries were as high as 11.5 milligrams per liter — a level 10 times higher than the one used here in the U.S.

    Grandjean and the others also point out that the difference in IQ scores was within the margin of error for measuring IQs.  And they point out that there were methodological problems with most of the studies, some of those were called “serious” problems by Grandjean et al.  The anti-fluoride crazies are only trying to hype these poor-quality studies to advance their personal agenda.

  • Cath

    Thank you M, which is what I noticed in the report “The researchers searched the MEDLINE, EMBASE, Water Resources Abstracts,
    and TOXNET databases through 2011 for eligible studies. They also
    searched the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) database, as
    many oral health studies on fluoride neurotoxicity have been published in Chinese journals only.”

    I was raised on fluoridated water and I was always an honor student…

    Thank you for your comment.

  • Paul Connett

    Xiang et al, 2003 a,b), one of the 27 studies reviewed by Choi et al, (2012) at Harvard, estimated that the threshold for the lowering of IQ was 1.9 ppm. I am surprised that M (above) should claim that the levels in these studies was “way higher” than the levels used in artificial fluoridation in the US (0.7 – 1.2 ppm). A child drinking two liters of water at 1 ppm fluoride (2 mg of fluoride per day) would get more fluoride than some of the Chinese children drinking one liter of water at 1.9 ppm (1.9 mg/day). Moreover another study ( Ding et al., 2012) found a lowering of IQ in the range of 0.3 – 3 ppm. No matter how you cut it – and no matter how much you want fluoridation to continue for emotional reasons – the science says that there is no adequate margin of safety – by any normal and rational toxicological standard – to protect ALL of America’s children from this serious end point. This outdated practice must be ended QUICKLY before we do further damage to our children and our future. If you must have fluoride then brush it on your teeth and spit it out but don’t force it on the whole population via our drinking water.

    Paul Connett, PhD, co-author of “The Case Against Fluoride” (Chelsea Green,

  • The EPA
    says fluoride is a chemical “with substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.”

  • DR

    Yes, there is a relationship between cognitive function and fluoride. Just as there is with other neurotoxins like mercury, lead and aluminum. The only difference is that we are intentionally exposed to fluoride which leaches lead from water pipes, exacerbating its neurodevelopmental effects. Ingested fluoride crosses the blood brain barrier and the placenta to affect the growing brain of the fetus. Babies who consume formula reconstituted with fluoridated water receive fluoride levels that exceed safety limits. Caregivers are not warned. The public is not aware of the systemic effects of fluoride toxicity. Thank goodness for this Harvard study. Parenting skills and genetics are attacked when a child experiences a cognitive dysfunction, yet rarely are environmental toxins considered. Since there is a high index of suspicion, we need to keep fluoride out of the water, re-evaluate fluoride varnish applications, and start calculating the fluoride exposure dose to ensure that children are not receiving toxic amounts that exceed the EPA’s reference dose. This is a very serious matter that needs to include every health department.

  • Declan Waugh

    Of course the studies in china or elsewhere are relevant to countries in the western world that artificially fluoridate their water supplies, for the very reason being that these same countries have the highest prevalence of bottle fed infants in the world, who are all exposed to fluoride from making formula milk from fluoridated tap water. Over 70% of mothers in china (and more in rural areas) breast feed for the first six months compared to less than 30% for example in Ireland.

    So in reality when the Chinese authorities undertake neurological studies of children exposed to fluoride, it is most likely that many of their new born infants could be exposed to less fluoride than most babies born in north America. This is particular the case when the European food safety authority and the EU scientific committee SCHER have both advised that natural breast milk contains between 100- 200 times less fluoride than that present in our fluoridated water.

    It is precisely for this reason that the public health authorities in fluoridated countries should follow the example of the Canadian Paediatric Society, a body that represent over 3000 doctors, which recommend that babies should not be exposed to fluoride at all for the first six month of life. It is precisely for the same reason that they should also follow the views of public health departments in Europe which find that artificially fluoridating public water supplies is unsafe.

    In ending I would also add, now that it is accepted that fluoride is a neurotoxin (U.S EPA 2011) and given the dramatic increase in neurological disease witnessed in this country, including children suffering autism spectrum disorders, children suffering attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and adults suffering Alzheimer’s disease, do the authorities in USA or other fluoridated countries intend to undertake any studies to demonstrate that fluoride in water is not contributing to this disease burden within our community? We do not know the causes for the alarming increases in these diseases but we do know that wherever possible, everything must be done by regulatory agencies and caregivers to protect the brain from known neurotoxins. Fluoride is a known neurotoxin and it is time to stop adding it to public drinking water systems.

  • H. Morris

    Cath Hughes
    gives a useful introduction to a paper that deserves close attention. With due
    respect to ‘M’ she is perfectly correct in describing it as a Harvard study,
    specifying that it is a systematic review. The Chinese studies on which it is
    based have been appearing for many years, but this is the first time they have
    been brought together in this way.
    Figure 2 compares all the results while Table 1 gives the background
    details. You don’t need to be one of M’s “anti-fluoridation crazies” to see
    that the analysis ought to be uncomfortable reading for fluoridation promoters.
    M claims that fluoride concentrations were “way higher” than in the US and
    highlights 11.5mg/L. But that was the highest. Most of the studies considered
    concentrations below the current EPA maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 4mg/L
    and many are near or below EPA’s secondary MCL of 2mg/L. This means that Connett’s view that
    there is no adequate margin of safety is correct. In fact there is hardly any
    margin of safety at all.

    M’s precis
    of Granjean’s comments is selective and imprecise, but the authors state:
    “Although the studies were generally of insufficient quality, the consistency
    of their findings adds support to existing evidence of fluoride-associated
    cognitive deficits, and suggests that potential developmental neurotoxicity of
    fluoride should be a high research priority.” That is the bottom line. So far
    Western governments, far from giving it priority, have totally ignored it.

  • Karl J. Muzikar, DDS

    Wow, there are still intelligent people purporting that we are all being poisoned by fluoride? (I wish they could turn their energies to something more useful. This world could use some creative thinkers to get the economy rolling again.) The point of the whole issue is NOT whether fluoride is a toxin, but at what point does fluoride become not healthy for a human being. The recommendation is one part in a million to prevent caries. For 28 years, I have routinely prescribed toothpaste with 5000 ppm and I have yet to kill any of my patients. The empirical evidence is the patient who vehemently rejects using any fluoridated paste and presents with multiple carious lesions and wonders how this could happen. The very first question that I ask new patients with multiple caries is: “Were you raised in a area with fluoridated water.”
    The other unposed question about fluoride and IQ is: “Does ingesting fluoride lower your IQ?” To answer that question, compare IQs of people raised in naturally high fluoridation areas (Kenya, Africa; Durango, Mexico; Ozarkians; etc) against non-fluoridated people. Remember, I didn’t start this non-sense.- Karl J. Muzikar, DDS

  • Cath

    Everyone: Thank you for this great discussion in the comments. I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to offer your viewpoints on this issue.

    But I wonder how much bottled water impacts the concerns in the U.S. because there is an assumption that kids still drink from water faucets like we did, but in fact, they drink a lot of bottled water, which is not fluorinated…

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