Tag Archives: endemic fluorosis

Even studies from endemic fluorosis areas show fluoride is not harmful at levels used in fluoridation

Most of the claims made by anti-fluoride propagandists are simply wrong. Image source: Fluoridation and the ‘sciency’ facts of critics

Anti-fluoride propagandists continually cite studies from areas of endemic fluorosis in their arguments against community water fluoridation (CWF). But if they critically looked at the data in those papers they might get a shock. Invariably the published data, even from areas of endemic fluorosis, shows fluoride is safe at the concentrations relevant to CWF.

I have completed a detailed analysis of all the 65 studies the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) lists as evidence that community water fluoridation (CWF) is harmful to child IQ. The full analysis is available for download as the document Analysis of FAN’s 65 brain-fluoride studies.

In this article, I discuss the studies in the FAN’s list (see FLUORIDE & IQ: THE 65 STUDIES”) which report relationships between child IQ and fluoride exposure in areas of endemic fluorosis. There are eleven such studies in the FAN list but only six of them provide sufficient data to enable independent statistical analysis.

While those six studies do show a statically significant (p<0.05) negative relationship of IQ with fluoride intake those results are not relevant to CWF because the fluoride as exposure levels are much higher than ever occurs with CWF.

However, it is possible to investigate if the relationships are significant at lower concentrations more relevant to CWF. I have done this with these six studies and illustrate the result obtained with these graphs below using the data extracted from Xiang et al (2003). (This study is often used by anti-fluoride campaigners).

The red data points in the figures below are for lower concentrations of urinary F or creatinine adjusted urinary F. The range for the red points is still quite a bit larger than urinary F levels measured for children in areas where CWF is used. However, we can see that the relationships at these lower ranges are not statistically significant (results from regression analyses cited in figures).


This was also the case with the other studies from FAN’s list which provided sufficient data for regression analyses. I summarise the results obtained for five of these studies in the figure below.

This show that none of the studies found statistically significant relationships with fluoride exposure for the low fluoride concentration relevant to CWF. The situation is basically the same for the sixth study, Mustafa et al (2018), which reports average school subject performances for a range of subjects for children in Khartoum state, Sudan. However, it is hard to know what the safe limit for fluoride exposure is in that climate (for climatic reasons the upper permissible F level in drinking water is set at 0.33 ppm for Khartoum state) and the sample numbers are low. Interested readers should consult my report – Analysis of FAN’s 65 brain-fluoride studies.


Anti-fluoride campaigners often cite FAN’s list (FLUORIDE & IQ: THE 65 STUDIES”) in their attempts to argue that fluoridation is bad for the child’s brain. But in these series of articles Anti-fluoride 65 brain-fluoride studies not evidence against fluoridation, I have shown that their arguments are false.

In Child IQ in countries with endemic fluorosis imply fluoridation is safe I showed that while IQ and other health problems may occur where fluoride exposure is very high in areas of endemic fluorosis the reports themselves implicitly assume that the low fluoride exposure in the “low fluoride” areas is safe. It is the data from these areas, not the “high fluoride” areas, that are relevant to CWF. So despite the heavy use of these articles by FAN and anti-fluoride activists these studies do not prove what they claim. If anything these studies show CWF is safe.

In this article, I considered a few of these studies which included data relevant to low fluoride exposure. When the low fluoride exposure data (relevant to CWF)  from these studies were statistically analysed none of them showed significant relationships of child IQ to fluoride exposure. That confirms the implicit assumption from these studies that there is no negative effect of fluoride exposure on child IQ at these low levels.

Finally, in Canadian studies confirm findings of Broadbent et al (2015) – fluoridation has no effect on child IQ I summarise results from the only three studies where comparisons of IQ for children living in fluoridated and unfluoridated areas are compared. These studies were made in New Zealand and Canada and the results were the same. No statistically significant differences in child IQ were found.

However, the authors of the Canadian studies ignored this result and instead used questionable statistical methods to search for possible relationships between fluoride exposure and child IQ. Most of the relationships they report were not statistically significant but, nevertheless, they and their supporters have simply ignored this and concentrated on the few statically significant relationships.

Anti-fluoride activists currently rely strongly on these studies and heavily promote them. I will discuss these few studies further in my next article.

Similar articles



Child IQ in countries with endemic fluorosis imply fluoridation is safe.

Anti-fluoride activists love to point out that people living in endemic fluorosis areas in countries like China suffer all sorts of health problems, including lower IQ. But studies of these areas show no lowering of IQ in the low fluoride areas relevant to community water fluoridation.

I have completed a detailed analysis of all the 65 studies the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) lists as evidence that community water fluoridation (CWF) is harmful to child IQ. The full analysis is available for download as the document Analysis of FAN’s 65 brain-fluoride studies.

In this article, I discuss the studies in the FAN’s list (see FLUORIDE & IQ: THE 65 STUDIES”) which compare child IQ in areas of “low” and “high” fluoride in countries like China, Mexico, Iran, Egypt, and India where fluorosis is endemic. In fact, all these studies either assume or provide evidence that fluoride at the concentrations used for CWF is harmless.

IQ differences for “high” and “low” fluoride areas

FAN was really dredging through very poor research to find these studies. In fact, FAN had to go to the trouble of translating many of these studies because they were obscure and not available in English.

Of their 65 studies, 17  do not provide data for fluoride intake or for drinking water fluoride concentrations. Instead, they simply describe the “high” areas as endemic fluorosis areas or areas where people suffer severe dental or skeletal fluorosis. Several of the studies used “control” groups from areas of “slight” fluorosis or dental fluorosis in contrast to skeletal fluorosis.

Another 29 studies did provide water fluoride concentrations for the “low” fluoride and “high” fluoride areas. This data is useful as it enables us to consider how relevant the results are to CWF. I have summarised the data in Figure 1.

The take-home message from Figure 1 is that while these 29 studies do show a decrease in child IQ in areas of “high” fluoride those areas are not relevant to CWF. In fact, the only relevance to CWF are the areas of “low” fluoride where there is the implicit assumption that child IQ is not affected. We can also assume this is the case for the 17 studies which do not provide details of fluoride exposure.

Figure 1: Comparison of water fluoride levels in “high” and “low” fluoride areas of 29 of the FAN studies and in areas where CWF is used.

So these 46 studies heavily promoted by FAN over recent years do not show any harm from CWF – in fact, all these studies implicitly assume there is no negative effect on child IQ at the “low” fluoride levels studied – and these are the areas most relevant to CWF. A simple consideration of the health problems faced by people living in areas of endemic fluorosis should have made it obvious that the data for high fluoride areas is simply not relevant. Consider these figures from Das et al (2016) – one never sees people like this in areas where CWF is used:

Dental fluorosis case found in the study area (age: 12, sex: male). Das et al (2016)

Skeletal fluorosis case found in the study area (age: 17, sex: male). Das et al (2016)

FAN is simply silly to suggest these studies, and especially the results for the “high” fluoride areas, area at all relevant to CWF.

Mind you, Paul Connett, FAN Director, likes to draw attention to one of these studies where he claims the “high” fluoride area has a drinking- water fluoride concentration of 0.81 mg/L which is similar to that for CWF. He is simply dredging the data (and ignoring all the other studies he cites)  to make this claim. The study he refers to was made in an area of iodine deficiency and is extremely weak – simply and half pages in a Chinese newsletter. Have a look for yourself – Lin et al (1991).

In a future article, I will discuss the studies in FAN’s list which compare IQ for children from fluoridated and unfluoridated areas.

Similar articles



Another study used by anti-fluoride activists actually shows community water fluoridation OK

Another study comparing effect in children from nonendemic areas (Dagang) and endemic fluorosis area (Jinghai) about 80km apart in the Tianjin area of China. Hardly sampling the same population.

Anti-fluoride campaigners still use studies from endemic fluorosis area of China in their campaign against community water fluoridation (CWF). This misrepresents the situation. While the control areas they use (non-endemic fluorosis areas where there are no health effects) are relevant to CWF the data from the endemic fluorosis areas where fluoride intake is high are simply not relevant to CWF.

However, some of these studies provide enough information to enable checking for health effects in the control, non-endemic fluorosis areas. I discuss one of these studies below – Cui et al (2018) – and show it finds no health effects at the low fluoride concentration relevant to CWF. The use of this study in anti-fluoride campaigns is therefore misleading.

I also show how even in his misrepresentation of this study the “Research Director” of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), Chris Neurath, makes basic mathematical mistakes.

The citation for this study is:

Cui, Y., Zhang, B., Ma, J., Wang, Y., Zhao, L., Hou, C., … Liu, H. (2018). Dopamine receptor D2 gene polymorphism, urine fluoride, and intelligence impairment of children in China: A school-based cross-sectional study. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 165(August), 270–277.

The study used school children (7 to 12 years old) from the districts of Jinghai and Dagang in Tianjin of China (see map above). The endemic fluorosis area had drinking water fluoride concentrations of 1.52–2.49 mg/L and the nonendemic fluorosis area had drinking water fluoride concentrations of 0.20–1.00 mg/L.

Of course, the results for children in the endemic fluorosis area are simply not relevant to CWF where the drinking water concentrations are usually less than 0.8 mg/L.


Child IQ values were compared with urinary fluoride levels and regression analysis used to determine if there was any relationship. The children were also tested for the presence of different genes and each of three different genetic groups was considered separately.

Skewed data

The data from both endemic and non-endemic fluorosis areas were combined. That for urinary F was skewed and had to be transformed to provide the normal data distribution required for linear regression analysis. Consequently, the authors report linear regression results for the relationship of child IQ to the logarithm of urinary F [Log(UF)].

No statistically significant relationships were found for two of the genotypes (designated CC & CT) but there was a significant relationship for the genotype designated TT. Less than 14% of the children had this gene.

Figure from Cui et al (2018) showing a negative relationship of child IQ with the logarithm of urinary fluoride. Equation of fitted line is IQ = 117.48 – 9.75*Log(UF). R-squared = 0.142, p = 0.012. 95% CI for coefficient -17.21,-2.29

So, of course, the anti-fluoride campaigners simply go with the results for the children with the TT gene and ignore the results for the other 86% of children.

Nothing new here – they always ignore results that they can not use in their campaigns to confirm their biased presentations.

Analysis of the data for the low fluoride levels relevant to CWF doesn’t support activist claims

Here I will just consider the data relevant to CWF. After digitally extracting the data from the figures in the paper I restricted linear regression analysis to the children with urinary F values of less than 2 mg/L (which is still rather high for areas where CWF is used). The figure below displays that data, together with the results of linear regression analysis. Untransformed values were used because data for urine fluoride concentrations less than 2 mg/ml is normally distributed.

Linear regression analysis for the relationship of child IQ with urinary F. Children with TT gene about 44% of the sample. Children with CC and CT genes about 86% of the sample.

There were no statistically significant (p < 0.05) relationships, either for the TT variant (red triangle) or for the other variants (open circle) (CC & CT combined in this figure).

So, once again we see that if the appropriate data from these studies are used they confirm that there is no relationship of child IQ with measures of fluoride exposure at concentrations relevant to CWF (see also New study touted by anti-fluoridation campaigners actually indicates fluoridation is safe).

FAN’s “Research Director” makes simplistic mistakes

FAN plans to use studies like Ciu et al (2018) in their upcoming case against the US Environmental Protection Agency. Their aim is to attempt to establish cognitive effects as the main harms from CWF and then use studies like these to argue against CWF. Even though studies like this simply establish that there is no harm from fluoride concentration used for CWF. One hopes that the experts testifying for the EPA show how these studies are misrepresented by FAN.

FAN has provided a presentation by their “Research Director,” Chris Nerath, which they claim summarises their arguments. It’s a “pretty” PowerPoint presentation (FAN describes it as “powerful“) and may fool some people, but it just does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

Quite apart for the misrepresentation of these scientific studies, and use of studies like Cui et al (2018) which are not relevant to CWF, Neurath simply makes basic scientific mistakes.

For example, in his slide 33, he claims that Cui et al (2018) showed a 10 point IQ loss for a 1 mg/L increase in urinary F. But that is simply not true – his mistake is that he ignored the fact that the linear relationship reported by Cui et al 2018) [IQ = 117.48 – 9.75*Log(UF)] is based on log values of urinary F where the value of the coefficient is -9.75. In other words, the 10 point loss is for an increase of urinary by a log value of 1 is equivalent to an increase from a concentration of 1 mg/L [Log(1) = 0] to a urinary F concentration of 10 mg/L ([log(10)=1].

Slide 33 from the presentation by Chris Neurath, FAN’s “Research Director” displaying an embarrassing mathematical mistake.

Let’s do the correct calculation for him. The Cui et al (2018) relationship shows an IQ value 117.48 for a urinary F concentration of 1 mg/L [Log(1)=0] and 114.55 for a urinary F concentration of 2 mg/L [Log(2)=0.301]. So the loss is only 2.9 IQ points.

Neurath thinks it sounds much better for his case to say a loss of 10 IQ points but all he has done is shown either he did not read Cui et al (2018) properly or does not understand a simple mathematical relationship.

However, I should stress Neurath’s argument is irrelevant to CWF, as well as being mathematically wrong because its analysis includes data from endemic fluorosis areas. In fact, there is no statistically significant relationship between child IQ and urinary fluoride either for the overall group or for the separate genetic groups considered.

“Safety threshold”

The graph in Neurath’s slide is adapted from Cui et al (2018) which made an attempt to determine a “safety threshold of urine fluoride levels for IQ
impairment” for the children with the TT gene. They defined this “safety threshold” as the urinary fluoride value corresponding to the mean IQ for the group. This seems arbitrary to me and the authors make no attempt to justify the definition.

They then divided the data into quintiles according to urinary fluoride values. Quintile 4 was the first quintile where the mean IQ value is below the mean IQ for the whole group so they assumed to mean log(UF) for that quintile to represent the “safety threshold.”

It all seems quite hairy to me – but I suppose the method produces a few data points which Neurath was able to plot on a graph and make to appear impressive. But look at the spread of the data (Neurath does not show this) in the graph below where the bars represent the spread of data for each quintile and the dotted line is the mean IQ value for the group. The spread is hardly surprising – the overall data is very scattered and only about 9 data points were used for each quintile.

I frankly think this method of determining a “safety threshold” is meaningless. We could do exactly the same with the data where urinary fluoride is less than 2 mg/L – much more relevant to CWF. This is the result – using quartiles of about 8 data points each.

Quite meaningless.

There are many other misrepresentations and mistakes in Chris Neurath’s Powerpoint presentation and I may return to some of them later. However, let’s hope the court recognises these and rejects FAN’s attempts.


Anti-fluoride activists continually use studies from areas of endemic fluorosis in their campaigns against CWF. However, when the actual data relevant to community water in these studies are considered they usually show no health effect.  There is no doubt that people living in endemic fluorosis areas suffer a range of health problems. But where these studies provide complete data they almost always could be used to support CWF.

Activists like FAN and their “Research Director” simply clutch on to any study they can finds which appears to show harmful effects of fluoride and ignore the fact that they are hardly ever relevant to the fluoride concentration used in CWF. They cherry-pick and ignore, or cover-up, any information not supporting their bias.

This approach is hardly scientific. It is not objective and never undertakes a critical review of the studies used. These activist display a thoughtless approach to scientific research when they opportunistically use scientific studies like this. Their approach is unthinking and it is hardly surprising that they make simple mathematical and statistical errors like the one described here and made by Paul Connett recently (see and Author confirms anti-fluoridation activist misrepresentation of her work).

Similar articles

New study touted by anti-fluoridation campaigners actually indicates fluoridation is safe

Children used in this study were from Lintingkou town (a normal-fluoride/control area) and Dakoutun town (a high-fluoride area) in Baodi district of Tianjin, China. The towns are 25 km apart.

Anti-fluoridation activists on social media seem to cite any scientific article about fluoride which they think will show it harmful. They usually rely only on information in the article title or abstract. This means they are often wrong as the articles may not be at all relevant to the low fluoride concentrations used in water fluoridation. Perhaps they should stop for a minute and actually read the articles they cite.

The other day @NYSCOF, the twitter account for the New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc (a small antifluoridation activist group in New York) promoted a new Chinese study as part of its campaign against community water fluoridation (CWF). It claimed: “Children’s IQ was lower when water and urinary fluoride levels were high compared to a low fluoride group.” But the fact this is a Chinese study should have warned the honest reader that the “high” fluoride group lived in an area of endemic fluorosis and data for them is irrelevant to CWF.

In fact, some of the data in their paper are relevant to CWF – the data for the “low fluoride” control group where children were exposed to drinking water concentrations less than 1 mg/L (CWF aims to maintain a drinking water fluoride concentration of about 0.7 or 0.8 mg/L). It’s worth looking at that data to see if child IQ is related to fluoride exposure at that level.

The take-home message is that it isn’t.

Here is the citation for the new study:

Zhao, Q., Tian, Z., Zhou, G., Niu, Q., Chen, J., Li, P., … Wang, A. (2020). SIRT1-dependent mitochondrial biogenesis supports therapeutic effects of resveratrol against neurodevelopment damage by fluoride. Theranostics, 10(11), 4822–4838.

Two different communities

The children (8-12 year-olds) in this study came from two different communities in the Baodi district of Tianjin, China – see the map above. They are Lintingkou town, where drinking water fluoride concentrations were “normal,” and Dakoutun town, which is in an area of endemic fluorosis and the drinking water fluoride concentrations are high (about 1 to 3.5 mg/L). The towns are about 25 km apart and will clearly have a number of differences which could be relevant to the IQ of children. Possible confounders like this were not considered in the study.

People living in areas of endemic fluorosis suffer a range of health and socioeconomic effects which could influence child IQ

The figure below from the paper illustrates the ranges of drinking water F and urinary F for the children studied (30 in each of the “low” and “high” fluoride groups).

Only the data for the “control” group are relevant to CWF. Unfortunately, the authors chose to plot the IQ data for the two groups on the same graph and concluded that this showed a “fluoride-caused intellectual loss in children” – see their graph below.

But, their conclusion is wrong. When we look at the data for the “control” and “high fluoride” groups separately that simple conclusion is clearly unwarranted.  In fact, there is no statistically significant relationship (p<0.05) of child IQ with urinary F for either the “low” or the “high” group – see the graph below which uses digitally extracted data from the above figure. Data points for the”low” fluoride group are green and those for the “high” fluoride group are red.

This shows how statistical analyses like regression analyses can produce misleading results if the data is not considered properly. It is simply misleading to include two separate populations like this in a regression analysis without considering the whole range of possible confounders.

There is no relationship between child IQ and urinary fluoride in either population. All the regression analysis shows is that there is a difference between the two towns – and that is simply shown by the average values of IQ in those towns. The average child IQ in Lintingkou town is 112.4 while in Dakoutun town it is 98.5.

While these IQ values seem pretty good (usually the average IQ for a population is 100) the lower value for Dakoutun town is not surprising considering that the population living in areas of endemic fluorosis suffer a whole range of health and social problems.

The biochemical data has the same problem

The paper itself is a real hodgepodge of separate studies involving child IQ, levels of mitochondrial biogenesis signalling molecules, experiments with rats and with in vitro cell cultures. I do not have the expertise to critique the biochemical, cell culture and rat behavioural techniques used. However, the presentation of the biochemical data for the children suffers the same problems as the presentation of the IQ data.

The authors claim that there is a significant positive relationship between the silent information regulator 1 (SIRT1) and child urinary F, and significant negative relationships of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1α) and mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) with child urinary F. But they simply lumped the data for the two towns together. When the data for the two groups are considered separately there are no statistically significant relationships for these biochemical measures in either of the two groups – see figures below. Again, data points for the “low” fluoride group are green and those for the “high” fluoride group are red.


Yet against anti-fluoride campaigners are promoting a study that they probably haven’t even bothered reading. They are using results for an area of endemic fluorosis to argue against CWF. Worse, they are completely ignoring the data in this and similar studies which show no relationship between child IQ and fluoride exposure at fluoride levels relevant to CWF.


The Twitter account @NYSCOF promoting this specific study is very active and is connected with the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) through Carol Kopf –  the media officer for both the New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc. (NYSCOF) and FAN. Ironically, she uses the slogan “I Am a Force for Science” on her Twitter image.

Sometimes I drop a reply to her posts – in this case pointing out: “And no loss of IQ at F concentrations relevant to community water fluoridation. These studies show CWF safe.”

My comment will not change Carol Kopf’s mind, of course, but others may read it and understand. Mind you, it’s inevitable that other anti-fluoride activists see my comments and react in stupid ways. For example, one of the Fluoride Free NZ leaders, Kane Kitchener, posted this reply:

“Ken, you’ve been exposed too long by Hamilton’s Fluoridated water. Too much reduction in IQ to see it.”

It really is pointless attempting to discuss science with these people.

Similar articles

Anti-fluoride campaigners still rely on irrelevant studies


Despite Paul Connett’s claim that one only has to read four studies, anti-fluoride campaigners waste so much time promoting irrelevant studies to support there claims one could say they end up drowning in their own irrelevance. Image Credit: Ian Mcewan Quotations

Anti-fluoride activists simply can’t help it. They will post on social media citations to anything they think shows that fluoride is harmful – even if the studies are completely irrelevant to community water fluoridation (CWF). This despite Paul Connett, director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), claiming “You only have to read four studies…” to come to the conclusion that CWF is bad for your health.

Connett claims that he has it all sewed up with these four studies from areas where CWF is used or fluoride exposure values are similar to that for CWF. So I thought this would mean activists would give up citing studies from areas of endemic fluorosis where fluoride exposure is much larger. But no – here we go again with FAN returning to the reliance on endemic fluorosis studies with the claim:

“NEW STUDY: Each 1.0 mg/L increment in [urinary fluoride] concentration corresponded with an increase in the prevalence of psychosomatic problems.”

The local fluoride Free NZ activist group (FFNZ) simply repeats the claim. Anti-fluoride activists have a consistent habit of simply repeating these sort of claims, together with citation, without bothering to actually check what the cited papers say or how relevant the study really is to their cause. These activists seem to make a hobby of this – one can see their work every day on Twitter and Facebook. If nothing else one has to admire their dedication to the cause, if not there understanding of what they cite.

In this case, the study is not at all relevant to CWF. Here is its citation.

Wang, A., Duan, L., Huang, H., Ma, J., Zhang, Y., & Ma, Q. (2020). Association between fluoride exposure and behavioural outcomes of school-age children: a pilot study in China. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 00(00), 1–10.

Briefly, it reports results for a comparison of six behavioural scores for 325 resident school-age children (7–13 years old) living in Tongxu County of Henan Province in China with a measure of fluoride exposure  (urinary fluoride using a single morning collected sample). There was no statistically significant relationship with of five of these behavioural scores (conduct problems, learning problems, Impulsive-hyperactive, anxiety or ADHD index) with urinary fluoride but there was with one – Psychosomatic problems.

It’s a very weak relationship – one has only to look at how the data is scattered in the figures in the paper to see this:


Notice that the urinary fluoride concentration (Fluoride in the graphs) cover a range much higher than is typical for areas where CWF is used – usually much less than 2 mg/L. Not surprising, as it is from an area of endemic fluorosis. Also noticeable is that some of the high fluoride value data points are outliers which of course will influence the statistical analysis.

Not all the data is available but extraction of the data from the figure for Psychosomatic Problems enabled me to check the effect of outliers at high urinary fluoride concentrations. When only the data for urinary fluoride concentrations below 3 mg/L are considered there is no statistically significant relationship. This is even more true when only the data for urinary fluoride concentrations below 2.5 mg/L is considered. And these concentrations are still higher than found for children living in areas where CWF is used.


This study is completely irrelevant to CWF. In fact, if only the low urinary fluoride concentrations more relevant to CWF are considered the study shows absolutely no negative effect of fluoride on child behaviour. If anything, the study actually could be used to support CWF.

But this does not stop anti-fluoride campaigners from promoting the study on social media as if it supported their arguments. I guess the promotion of irrelevant work like this is simply a result of the way they mine citations – promoting anything that could appear to indicate problems with fluoride -even when the studies are completely irrelevant. It’s also a result of the thoughtless way citations are used and studies are promoted by people who don’t understand or even bother to read the studies they cite and promote.

Similar articles

Yet another fluoride-IQ study

As with most of these fluoride-IQ studies this one is only relevant to areas of endemic fluorosis (This is from a UNESCO paper and has been corrected for New Zealand. Identification of fluorosis in a country does not imply the whole country is high fluoride).

Yes, it’s a bit like groundhog day. Another fluoride-IQ study – and we expect this to be followed by another round of claims by anti-fluoride propagandists that this is the death knell to community water fluoridation. That this study provides the “irrefutable proof” that fluoride is a “neurotoxin.”

But that interpretation is completely wrong. This new study does nothing of the sort – in fact, quite the opposite.

The new study is:

Duan, Q., Jiao, J., Chen, X., & Wang, X. (2017). Association between water fluoride and the level of children’s intelligence: a dose-response meta-analysis https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2017.08.013

Now, why is this study absolutely useless for those opposing community water fluoridation?

It is not relevant to community water fluoridation

Because it is about a problem in areas of endemic fluorosis – where fluoride dietary intakes are much higher than where community water fluoridation exists.

From its first sentence it concentrates on fluorosis:

“Fluorosis is a progressive degenerative disease that causes skeletal fluorosis and dental fluorosis.”


“Currently, about 500 million people are exposed to environments high in fluoride content, while the incidence of fluorosis has already reached 200 million people worldwide.”

It’s not new research – it’s a meta-analysis of existing studies. Only studies dealing with areas of endemic fluorosis are considered in the meta-analysis. For example, the New Zealand (Broadbent et al., 2014) and Canadian (Barberio et a., 2017) papers which actually studied effects on IQ of community water fluoridation are not included. Nor is the Swedish study (Aggeborn & Öhman, 2016) which considered drinking water fluoride concentrations similar to that used in community water fluoridation.  So far these are the only reliable studies which considered low fluoride concentrations and they all show no effect of fluoride on IQ.

It is concerned with health effects in areas of endemic fluorosis

The meta-analysis includes 26 published studies in the meta-analysis. Most of the papers refer to “high fluoride water,” “fluorosis areas,” “endemic fluorosis” or similar terms in their titles. Low fluoride areas were only considered in the studies as “controls” and studies from areas of community water fluoridation were excluded.

Most of the considered studies simply compared IQ levels in “low fluoride” areas and “high fluoride” areas.  The mean drinking water fluoride concentration in the low fluoride levels of these studies was 0.6 mg/L (0.25 – 1.03 mg/L) and in the high fluoride areas, the mean drinking water concentration was  3.7 mg/L (0.8 – 11 mg/L).

As you can see the control or low fluoride areas, where the studies assumed there were no effects on IQ, have drinking water concentrations similar to that used in community water fluoridation (usually about 0.7 or 0.8 mg/L).

Yes, these studies did show statistically significant differences in IQ levels between the low and high fluoride areas. This is something for health authorities in areas of endemic fluorosis to be concerned about. And this, together with a range of other known health effects of excessive dietary fluoride intake, is the reason why attempts are made to reduce the fluoride levels in drinking water supplies in those areas.

People in high fluoride areas where fluorosis is endemic suffer a range of health problems. Credit: Xiang (2014)

Duan et al (2018) were able to present an overall estimate of the IQ difference between high and low fluoride areas – see figure. This is expressed as a standardised mean difference (SMD) – a necessary measure for a meta-analysis of a range of studies with different variability. The SMD = (difference in mean outcome between groups/standard deviation of outcome among participants) (see Cochrane Handbook).

All of the studies show a lower IQ in high fluoride areas than in low fluoride areas with the overall SMD being 0.52 (-0.62, -0.42 95% confidence interval).

To be clear – this is not 0.52 IQ points but can be interpreted as 0.52 x the standard deviation of IQ  in a population. Unfortunately, the authors do nothing to explain this, leaving readers to make the same mistake many did with a previous IQ meta-study (see Did the Royal Society get it wrong about fluoridation?).

Attempt to derive a dose-response relationship

The authors went on to attempt to derive an overall response curve relating SMD to drinking water fluoride concentration. Unfortunately, their results as presented in their  Fig 4 are confusing and the figure is not properly explained. Also, the modeling methods used to derive the response curve is not well explained.

However, the linear relationship they derived was not statistically significant. (They were able to derive a significant non-linear relationship, but again their methods and reason for doing this were not explained.)

I got the relationship shown in the figure below using the data provided in the paper without further modeling. This relationship is also not statistically significant (p=0.77).

The authors do suggest the possibility that lower intelligence may be associated with medium fluoride concentrations and “that very high fluoride concentration in water was associated with higher intelligence level than
medium fluoride.” However, although the figure above implies that IQ increases at higher fluoride concentrations, I do not think such conclusions are warranted with this data and its variability.

What causes the cognitive deficits?

Authors of these studies often seem to assume a direct chemical fluoride toxicity cause for the cognitive deficit. That also appears to be an assumption behind the desire to produce a dose-response relationship. Of course, anti-fluoride propagandists also prefer this mechanism because it enables them to argue that the effects also occur at low concentrations – they just haven’t been measured yet.

Although a dose-response relationship would be expected for a chemical toxicity mechanism this study did not produce a reasonable dose-response relationship. Some individual studies have claimed such a relationship but these claims are often not supported or the reported relationship is of only minor significance (see my discussion of Xiang et al., 2003 in Perrott, 2018).

The poor or non-existent relationship of cognitive deficits to drinking water fluoride concentration makes me suspect that there is not a direct effect. Rather the real causes of the cognitive deficits observed are dental or skeletal fluorosis or other health effects common in areas of endemic fluorosis. I suggested this in comments on Choi et al.,(2015) who observed a relationship with severe dental fluorosis but not water concentration (see Perrott 2015 – Severe dental fluorosis and cognitive deficits).

There I suggested consideration of the effects of severe dental fluorosis on quality of life and learning difficulties on cognitive deficits.  Another factor could be premature births and low birth weights which are known to influence cognitive development (see Premature births a factor in cognitive deficits observed in areas of endemic fluorosis?)

Duan et al., (2018) in their paper also allude to such possible mechanisms:

“Skeletal fluorosis is another very common and very serious side-effect of high fluoride intake, characterized by changes in the bone density, skeletal deformation, rickets, paralysis, disability, and even death. Patients with skeletal fluorosis have been reported to show neuronal nuclear vacuoles formations, cell loss in the spinal cord, and loss or solidification of Nissl bodies. Moreover, patients experience fatigue, sleepiness, headache, dizziness, and other symptoms related to the nervous system.”


The meta-analysis does confirm that there may be a problem with reduced of intelligence in children in areas of endemic fluorosis. This difference in IQ levels between high and low water fluoride levels is statistically significant.

However, this finding is of absolutely no relevance to community water fluoridation where the drinking water levels are similar to that in the low fluoride areas in the studies used for the meta-analysis.

The summarised data does not appear to be of sufficient quality to determine a reliable dose-response relationship. At least, the derived relationships are not statistically significant. An alternative explanation is that the observed reduced intelligence may not be directly related to drinking water concentration and instead related to dental or skeletal fluorosis, or other health effects common in areas of endemic fluorosis.

Similar articles

Endemic fluorosis and its health effects

Much of the anti-fluoridation propaganda used by activists rely on studies done in areas of endemic fluorosis. Slide from a presentation by Q. Xiang to an anti-fluoride meeting organised by Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network in 2014.


The public debate in New Zealand might convince the casual reader that all the science related to fluoride revolves around tooth decay and IQ. But that is certainly not the case on a world scale.

The World Health Organisation gives guidelines for the concentration of fluoride in drinking water recommending it should be in the range 0.5 – 1.5 mg/L. OK, above 0.5 mg/L because of the positive effect it has on oral health, in reducing dental decay. That interests us in New Zealand because our drinking water is more likely to be deficient in fluoride.

But on the world scale, many people are far more interest in the higher limit – or at least in attempting to reduce their drinking water fluoride concentration to below this limit. This is because large areas of the world suffer from the health effects of endemic fluorosis due to the excessive dietary intake of fluoride and the high concentration in their drinking water.

There are significant health effects from endemic fluorosis – effects we don’t’ have here but are important to many countries. So there is plenty of research – both on the health effects and on reducing drinking water concentrations and dietary intake.

In fact, the anti-fluoride campaigners get all the scientific reports they use in “evidence” to oppose community water fluoridation from studies in countries where fluorosis is endemic. Not only is this misrepresenting the science. It is also unbalanced because scientific studies on IQ in areas of endemic fluorosis represent only a small proportion of such health-related studies.

To illustrate this I have done a number of searches on Google Scholar using the terms “endemic fluorosis” and one other term related to a health effect. Here is the resulting table.

“endemic fluorosis” and “?” Hits in Google Scholar
Alone 8810
And “dental fluorosis” 3570
And “bone” 3570
And “skeletal fluorosis” 2910
And “cancer” 1690
And “death” 1180
And “birth” 1170
And “osteoporosis” 1130
And “body weight” 936
And “gastrointestinal” 808
And “Osteoclerosis 697
And “diabetes” 642
And “cardiovascular” 633
And “reproduction” 592
And “IQ” 480
And “cognitive” 331
And “heart disease” 327
And “hypothyroidism” 297
And “Renal failure” 292
And “obesity” 230
And “infertility” 216
And “non-skeletal fluorosis” 183
And “muscoskeletal” 178
And “birth weight” 135
And “birth defects” 86
And “premature birth” 29

40% of the hits related to “dental fluorosis” and another 40% to “bone” while 33% related to “skeletal “fluorosis.” Obviously, these are of big concern in areas of endemic fluorosis so receive a lot of research attention. In fact, the prevalence of these is used to define an area as endemic.

But only 5% of hits related to IQ – clearly of much less concern to researchers. Yet it seems to be all we hear about here and this illustrates how unbalanced most of the media reports we get here are.

To start with, these health effects do not occur in countries like New Zealand using community water fluoridation. They occur in regions where drinking water contains excessive fluoride and where the dietary intake of fluoride is excessive.

But the other fact is that IQ effects receive relatively little attention in health studies from those areas compared with the more obvious, and more crippling, effects like dental and skeletal fluorosis.

Mind you, that doesn’t stop activists making sporadic claims of all sorts of health effects from fluoridation and relying on studies from areas of endemic fluorosis. But the most frequent claims made by activists at the moment relate to IQ. Perhaps this is because it is harder to hide the fact that we don’t see cases fo skeletal fluorosis or severe dental fluorosis in New Zealand. IQ changes are not so obvious and this might make them a more useful tool for anti-fluoride campaigners to use in their scaremongering.

Similar articles

Debunking a “classic” fluoride-IQ paper by leading anti-fluoride propagandists


Three of the paper’s authors – Quanyong Xiang (1st Left), Paul Connett (2nd Left) and Bill Hirzy (far right) – preparing to bother the EPA.

Anti-fluoride groups and “natural”/alternative health groups and websites are currently promoting a new paper by several leading anti-fluoride propagandists. For two reasons:

  1. It’s about fluoride and IQ. The anti-fluoride movement recently decided to give priority to this issue in an attempt to get recognition of possible cognitive deficits, rather than dental fluorosis,  as the main negative health effect of community water fluoridation. They want to use the shonky sort of risk analysis presented in this paper to argue that harmful effects occur at much lower concentrations than currently accepted scientifically. Anti-fluoride guru, Paul Connett, has confidently predicted that this tactic will cause the end of community water fluoridation very soon!
  2. The authors are anti-fluoride luminaries – often described (by anti-fluoride activists) as world experts on community water fluoridation and world-class scientists. However, the scientific publication record for most of them is sparse and this often self-declared expertise is not actually recognised in the scientific community.

This is the paper – it is available to download as a pdf:

Hirzy, J. W., Connett, P., Xiang, Q., Spittle, B. J., & Kennedy, D. C. (2016). Developmental neurotoxicity of fluoride: a quantitative risk analysis towards establishing a safe daily dose of fluoride for children. Fluoride, 49(December), 379–400.


Co-author Bruce Spittle – Chief Editor of Fluoride – the journal of the International Society for Fluoride Research

I have been expecting publication of this paper for some time – Paul Connett indicated he was writing this paper during our debate in 2013/2014. FAN newsletters have from time to time lamented at the difficulty he and Bill Hirzy were having getting a journal to accept the paper. Connett felt reviewers’ feedback from these journals was biased. In the end, he has lumped for publication in Fluoride – which has a poor reputation because of its anti-fluoride bias and poor peer review. But, at last Connett and Hirzy have got their paper published and we can do our own evaluation of it.

The authors are:


Co-author David C. Kennedy – past president of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology – an alternative dentist’s group.

Bill Hirzy, Paul Connett and Bruce Spittle are involved with the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), a political activist group which receives financial backing from the “natural”/alternative health industry. Bruce Spittle is also the  Chief Editor of Fluoride – the journal of the International Society for Fluoride Research Inc. (ISFR). David Kennedy is a Past President of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology which is opposed to community water fluoridation.

Quanyong Xiang is a Chinese researcher who has published a number of papers on endemic fluorosis in China. He participated in the 2014 FAN conference where he spoke on endemic fluorosis in China.

xiang-Endemic fluorosis

Much of the anti-fluoridation propaganda used by activists relies on studies done in areas of endemic fluorosis. Slide from a presentation by Q. Xiang to an anti-fluoride meeting organised by Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network in 2014.

Critique of the paper

I have submitted a critique of this paper to the journal involved. Publication obviously takes some time (and, of course, it may be rejected).

However, if you want to read a draft of my submitted critique you can download a copy from Researchgate – Critique of a risk analysis aimed at establishing a safe dose of fluoride for children.  I am always interested in feedback – even (or especially) negative feedback – and you can give that in the comments section here or at Researchgate.

(Please note – uploading a document to Researchgate does not mean publication. It is simply an online place where documents can be stored. I try to keep copies of my documents there – unpublished as well as published. It is very convenient).

In my critique I deal with the following issues:

The authors have not established that fluoride is a cause of the cognitive deficits reported. What is the point in doing this sort of risk analysis if you don’t actually show that drinking water F is the major cause of cognitive deficits? Such an analysis is meaningless – even dangerous, as it diverts attention away from the real causes we should be concerned about.

All the reports of cognitive deficits cited by the authors are from areas of endemic fluorosis where drinking water fluoride concentrations are higher than where community water fluoridation is used. There are a whole range of health problems associated with dental and skeletal fluorosis of the severity found in areas of endemic fluorosis. These authors are simply extrapolating data from endemic areas without any justification.

The only report of negative health effects they cite from an area of community water fluoridation relates to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and that paper does not consider important confounders. When these are considered the paper’s conclusions are found to be wrong – see ADHD linked to elevation not fluoridation, and ADHD link to fluoridation claim undermined again.

The data used by the Hirzy et al. (2016) are very poor. Although they claim that a single study from an area of endemic fluorosis shows a statistically significant correlation between IQ and drinking water fluoride that is not supported by any statistical analysis.

The statistically significant correlation of IQ with urinary fluoride they cite from that study explains only a very small fraction of the variability in IQ values (about 3%) suggesting that fluoride is not the major, or maybe not even a significant, factor for IQ. It is very likely that the correlation between IQ and water F would be any better.

Confounders like iodine, arsenic, lead, child age, parental income and parental education have not been properly considered – despite the claims made by Hirzy et al. (2016)

The authors base their analysis on manipulated data which disguises the poor relations of IQ to water fluoride. I have discussed this further in Connett fiddles the data on fluorideConnett & Hirzy do a shonky risk assessment for fluoride, and Connett misrepresents the fluoride and IQ data yet again.

Hirzy et al. (2016) devote a large part of their paper to critiquing Broadbent et al (2014) which showed no evidence of fluoride causing a decrease in IQ  using data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. They obviously see it as a key obstacle to their analysis. Hirzy et al (2016) argue that dietary fluoride intake differences between the fluoridated and unfluoridated areas were too small to show an IQ effect. However, Hirzy et al (2016) rely on a motivated and speculative estimate of dietary intakes for their argument. And they ignore the fact the differences were large enough to show a beneficial effect of fluoride on oral health.


I conclude the authors did not provide sufficient evidence to warrant their calculation of a “safe dose.” They relied on manipulated data which disguised the poor relationship between drinking water fluoride and IQ. Their arguments for their “safe dose,” and against a major study showing no effect of community water fluoridation on IQ, are highly speculative and motivated.

Similar articles



Premature births a factor in cognitive deficits observed in areas of endemic fluorosis?


Could the increased incidence of premature births explain cognitive deficits observed in areas of endemic fluorosis? Image credit: New Kids-Center.

Anti-fluoridation activists are soon likely to be promoting a new paper reporting a study which found a relationship between maternal (in utero) exposure to fluoride and cognitive development delay in infants. Of course, they will be unlikely to mention the study occurred in an area of endemic fluorosis where drinking water fluoride concentrations are much higher than used in community water fluoridation (CWF). They are also unlikely to mention the possible role of premature births in cognitive development delay observed in the study.

The paper is:

Valdez Jiménez, L., López Guzmán, O. D., Cervantes Flores, M., Costilla-Salazar, R., Calderón Hernández, J., Alcaraz Contreras, Y., & Rocha-Amador, D. O. (2017). In utero exposure to fluoride and cognitive development delay in infants . Neurotoxicology

Valdez Jiménez et al., (2017) studied 65 mother-baby pairs in an area of endemic fluorosis in Mexico. The mothers had high levels of fluoride in their urine and this was negatively associated with cognitive functions (Mental Development Index – MDI) in the infants.

The concentration of fluoride in the tap water consumed by the mothers ranged from 0.5 to 12.5 mg/l, with about 90% of water samples containing fluoride above the World Health recommended maximum of 1.5 mg/l.

Fluoride in the mothers’ urine was also high – with the mean concentration for all the mothers of 1.9 mg/l  for the 1st trimester, 2.0 mg/l for the 2nd and 2.7 mg/l for the 3rd trimester. Urinary fluoride concentrations as high as 8.2 mg/l were found. This compares with a mean value of F in urine of 0.65 mg/L) for pregnant women residents in areas with low levels of F in drinking water (0.4 to 0.8 mg/l – similar to that recommended in community water fluoridation).

The MDI test used evaluates psychological processes such as attention, memory, sensory processing, exploration and manipulation, and concept formation. This was negatively associated with maternal urine fluoride concentrations – the association explaining about 24% of the variance.

Room for other influences

This data suggests that other confounding factors which weren’t measured could also contribute to the variation of the MDI results, and if such confounders were included in the statistical analysis the contribution from urinary fluoride may be much less than 24%.

However, I am interested in the data for premature births that were, unfortunately, not included in the statistical analysis. The paper reports “33.8% of children were born premature i.e. between weeks 28-36 and had a birth weight lower than 2.5 kg.” This is high for Mexico – as they say:

“The World Health Organization (WHO) in Mexico reported a rate of 7.3 cases per 100 births; compared with 33.8% of cases per 100 births that we observed in our study. We have 26.5% more cases than expected.”

According to their discussion, other researchers have also reported higher premature births in areas of endemic fluorosis, compared with non-endemic areas.

Is premature birth a mechanism explaining cognitive deficits?

This study differs from many others in that fluoride exposure to the pregnant mother, rather than the grown child, was investigated. While the authors tended to concentrate on possible chemical toxicity effects on the cognitive development of the child in utero it is also possible that indirect effects could operate. For example, premature birth and low birth weights could themselves be a factor in child cognitive development.

In fact, a quick glance a the literature indicates this may be the case. For example, Basten at al., (2015) reported that preterm birth was associated with “decreased intelligence, reading, and, in particular, mathematics attainment in middle childhood, as well as decreased educational qualifications in young adulthood.” It was also associated with decreased wealth at 42 years of age.

The influence of endemic fluorosis on premature births and birth weights may not involve fluoride directly. Health problems abound in endemic areas – as well as the obvious dental and skeletal fluorosis complaints also involve muscles, blood vessels, red blood cells, the gastrointestinal mucosa and other soft tissues. It is easy to see such health problems influencing the prevalence of premature births and birth weights.

Not relevant to CWF

Of course, none of this is relevant to community water fluoridation. Such fluoridated areas do not have the health problems of areas with endemic fluorosis where drinking water concentrations are much higher. But, of course, this does not stop opponents of CWF claiming that similar problems occur at the lower concentrations.

In case anyone attempts to use this suggestion as an argument against CWF I should mention the only study I could find that makes the link between CWF and fluoridation. Often cited by anti-fluoride campaigners it is a poster paper:

Hart et al., (2009). Relationship between municipal water fluoridation and preterm birth in Upstate New York.

Presented at an Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association the study appears not to have been published in a peer-reviewed journal. While the authors claim to have found a small, but statistically significant, increase in premature births in fluoridated areas this could be due to a number of possible confounding factors.With only a brief abstract to go on it is impossible to critically assess the study  – in fact, I suspect the non-publication is probably an indication of poor quality.

Similar articles

Water fluoridation – what to expect in the near future


Community water fluoridation (CWF) will persist in science news for the foreseeable future – not for any valid scientific reason but because of reaction to political pressures against it. This is particularly so in New Zealand where our parliament will be discussing legislative changes to fluoridation decision-making this year.

This is not to say that all the relevant news will be political. There is still ongoing research into the efficacy, cost-effectiveness and possible health effects of fluoridation. Although much of this is a response to pressure from opponents of this social health policy.

So what scientific and political news about CWF should we expect to see in the coming years?

The legislation

In the immediate future, this will be dominated by the new parliamentary legislation [Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill– at least in New Zealand. However, US anti-fluoride campaigners are following this legislation very closely, and will probably become involved in submission on it, so I expect this will also get coverage internationally. At least in the alternative health media which has stong links to the US anti-fluoride activist organisation, Fluoride Action Network (FAN), and which routinely carry their press releases.

The NZ Parliamentary Health Committee is currently taking written submissions on the fluoridation bill. The deadline for these is February 2. Readers interested in making their own submission can find some information on the submission process in my article Fluoridation: members of parliament call for submissions from scientific and health experts.

The bill itself simply transfers the decision-making process for fluoridation from local councils to District Health Boards. But most submissions will inevitably be about the science and not the proposed changes to decision-making – and, considering the promise of the local anti-fluoride group to shower the committee with “thousands and thousands of submissions,” will misrepresent that science. I will be interested to see what allowance the committee chairman makes for such irrelevant submissions when it comes to the public hearings, which could begin as early as February.

The bill has support from all the parliamentary parties, except the small NZ First which apparently wants councils to keep responsibility for fluoridation decisions, but wants to make binding referendums obligatory. So, I predict the bill will be passed this year. However, there will probably be attempts at the committee stages to amend it to transfer decision-making to central government, probably the Ministry of Health. Such an amendment appears to be supported by the Labour Party, but not by the National Party.

The “IQ problem” – a current campaign

There will be some news about research on the question of possible cognitive effects of fluoride in drinking water in the next few years. Not because there is any concern about this among health professionals. But because the claim that fluoride causes a drop in IQ is pushed very strongly by anti-fluoride activists. While they have a long list of claimed negative health effects of fluoridation the IQ claim is currently central to their political campaigns.

The campaigners claim scientific support for this claim. But that support comes mainly from a number of poor quality papers outlining research results from areas of endemic fluorosis (where drinking water concentrations of fluoride are much higher than the optimum levels used for CWF), mainly in China. FAN has a lot invested in this claim because it financed the translation of many of these otherwise obscure papers into English.There is general agreement among health specialists that these studies are not relevant to CWF. Investigation of areas where CWF is used, and where natural fluoride levels are similar to those used in CWF have not shown any neurological effects due to fluoride.

There is general agreement among health specialists that these studies are not relevant to CWF. Investigation of areas where CWF is used, and where natural fluoride levels are similar to those used in CWF have not shown any neurological effects due to fluoride.

However, FAN is strongly pushing the idea that cognitive effects of fluoride (rather than very mild dental fluorosis) should be the main criteria used in determining the recommended maximum levels of fluoride in drinking water. They currently have a petition in front of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promoting this claim. This may make the news in the near future as the EPA must respond this month and the likely rejection of the petition will no doubt cause a flurry of press releases.

Paul Connett, who with other members of his family runs FAN, has also attempted to use the scientific publication path to promote this claim. His arguments and calculations defining an extremely low maximum concentration, are very naive and his draft paper has already been rejected by journals several times. However, he no doubt lives in hope for its eventual acceptance somewhere. If he is successful this will be trumpeted to the high heavens by his supporters because while they describe Paul Connett as the international authority of water fluoridation he actually has no proper scientific publications in that area.

Research on neurological effects

We expect some research publications in the next year or so from the current US National Toxicity Program research on claims that fluoride at the concentrations used in drinking water fluoridation could have neurological effects. This research is basically a systematic review – according to the proposal:

an “evaluation of the published literature to determine whether exposure to fluoride is associated with effects on neurodevelopment, specifically learning, memory, and cognition.”

The motivation for this work, apart from the political pressure arising from activist claims, is to attempt to evaluate possible effects at concentration relevant to CWF. (Most published animal and human studies have involved higher concentrations). As the proposal says:

“Previous evaluations have found support for an association between fluoride exposure and impaired cognition; however, many of the studies included exposure to high levels of fluoride. Most of the human evidence was from fluoride-endemic regions having high background levels of fluoride, and the animal studies typically included exposure during development to relatively high concentrations of fluoride (>10 mg/L) in drinking water. Thus, the existing literature is limited in its ability to evaluate potential neurocognitive effects of fluoride in people associated with the current U.S. Public Health Service drinking water guidance (0.7 mg/L).”

I discuss the background to the US National Toxicity Program fluoride research in my article Fluoride and IQ – another study coming up.

Canadian Professor Christine Till will soon start a study looking at cognitive and behavioral factors using a data set for pregnant women exposed to contaminants. She intends to investigate the possibility of relationships with markers for fluoride consumption (see ). Anti-fluoride campaigners hold out great hope for results from this study because Till’s previous research is widely used by them to claim that fluoridation causes increased prevalence of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, that research was flawed because potential confounders were not considered properly. In fact, her reported statistically significant correlations disappears when the confounders are included (see  ADHD linked to elevation not fluoridation).

Problems in areas of endemic fluorosis

Health effects including cognitive deficits: The World Health Organisation recommends that drinking water fluoride concentrations should not be higher than 1.5 mg/L because of negative health effects of high concentrations. Many areas of the world do have high drinking water fluoride concentrations and those areas suffer from endemic fluorosis – dental and skeletal fluorosis. This is, of course, a serious problem and there is a continuous stream of research papers devoted to these areas.

This research is not relevant to CWF (where the optimum concentration of 0.7 mg/L or similar levels is used). But, of course, anti-fluoride campaigners will continue to cite these papers as “evidence” against CWF. We may even see an expert on endemic fluorosis being toured in New Zealand to provide scientific credibility to the anti-fluoride campaign. Dr. Ak.K. Susheela, who works on endemic fluorosis in India and has links with FAN, has been speaking at meetings organised by the anti-fluoride movement in North America and has been suggested as a speaker the local anti-fluoride campaigners should bring to New Zealand.

I expect there will be more papers reporting IQ deficits in areas of endemic fluorosis and these will most probably continue to use a chemical toxicity model to explain their results. I personally am interested in the possibility of researchers considering other models, such as the psychological effects of dental and physical deformities like dental and skeletal fluorosis (see Perrott et al. 2015. Severe dental fluorosis and cognitive deficits). Unlikely, considering how research can get locked into pet paradigms, but one can but hope.

Defluoridation: Another big issue in areas of endemic fluorosis is the need to lower drinking water fluoride concentrations. This if often done by finding alternative sources but there is continuing research on treatment methods to do this.

Again, not relevant to CWF – but I do follow this research and find some of it interesting chemically. Perhaps it reminds me of my own research many years ago.


The controversy around CWF is not going to go away. The opposition is strongly grounded in the “natural”/alternative health industry. It has plenty of financial and ideological resources and its message appeals to a significant minority of the population.

Most of the public interest this year will relate to the new legislation – expect plenty of press releases from the anti-fluoride groups as they organise to make and advertise their submissions, and express their anger at the probably inevitable decision that will go against them.

However, there will be a continuing dribble of research reports of relevance to CWF and to the claims advanced by anti-fluoride campaigners. While it is normal for a social health policy to be continually monitored and its literature reviewed, some of this research is a direct result of concerns raised by campaigners and activists.

Many in the scientific community find this sort of political activity annoying. But it does have its up side. CWF has been one of the most hotly contested social health programmes. Consequently is has received more than its fair share of literature reviews and new research.

And that is a good thing. Anti-fluoride activists often claim there is little research on the health effects of CWF. But that is just not true. Ironically it is the very political activity of such campaigners which has led to CWF being one of the most thoroughly researched social health policy.

Similar articles