I was recently visiting my parents and my dad kept mentioning that the fluoride found in tap water is bad for human consumption. He even had a reverse osmosis system under his sink to remove fluoride. Of course, he didn’t have many answers when I pressed him on his reasoning. He’s an accountant, not a scientist. I decided to research this fluoridation issue myself and this is what I discovered.
The short answer on fluoride in water, no one really seems to know if the fluoride found in drinking water is bad for you. Scientists know for a fact that it can reduce the amount of dental cavities and general tooth decay. However, they don’t know how much fluoride is too much. This is a problem.
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is actually a slight misnomer.
The substance added to municipal drinking water is actually sodium fluoride, fluorosilic acid, or sodium fluorosilicate. Sodium fluoride is expensive so it is typically only used in smaller municipalities and isn’t really that common in America.
The most common, by a large margin, substance used to fluoridate water is fluorosilic acid and sodium fluorosilicate. Both of these are much cheaper and easier to produce.
Anyway, this is all good and all, but it doesn’t really explain the reasoning. For that, we have…
Why is Fluoride in Our Drinking Water?
When people first discover exactly what fluoride is they typically ask the above question. It’s a great question too. I mean, we’re adding this mineral into our water for exactly what reason?
The short answer: We add fluoride to water because it has been shown to reduce tooth decay.
Now, the long answer on why we add fluoride to water is a bit more interesting. It actually dates back over 70 years ago. 1945 to be exact.
It was at this point that a long-term study was conducted. This study involved adding fluoride to water and then testing the rate of tooth decay. After 15 years, it was determined that the rate of cavities in schoolchildren had dropped by 60%. Naturally, this study didn’t account for other environmental or social factors that may cause less tooth decay.
It didn’t matter.
Water municipalities across the country raced to find a way to add fluoride to their water after hearing about the study. By the 1970s, over 70% of municipalities in the United States either added fluoride to water or already had naturally occurring fluoride in the water.
Do you need to remove fluoride from water?
This answer is actually a bit more nuanced than most people would have you believe. You don’t necessarily need to have the fluoride from your water removed.
It has been over 70 years since fluoride has been added to water and no negative side effects have been observe.
Think of all the unsafe things that Americans did in the 1960s that have since been proven unsafe. Some examples include asbestos, leaded gasoline, and smoking.
Fluoride in water would most likely have been proven unsafe at some point in the 1980s
However, too much fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis. This is a breaking down of the tooth enamel, which leads to browning of the teeth.
I won’t show you the pictures here because they’re pretty gross. You can check out the Wikipedia for dental fluorosis if you really want to see the damage that dental fluorosis can cause.
Unfortunately, there isn’t really a way to regulate the amount of fluoride that you consume. If you drink too much fluoridated water, then this can lead to fluorosis.
This is why it’s important to reduce the amount of fluoride that you consume. The easiest way to do this is to remove the fluoride from your water. Of course, there are a handful of other methods to reduce your fluoride intake, but removing it from your drinking water is the best way to do it.
Does Fluoride Cause Brain Damage?
Wow. That’s an interesting one. While doing my research I stumbled across a research report from Harvard of all places that discovered a link between fluoride and lower IQ in children. Harvard didn’t actually conduct the study. Instead, they determined this via a meta-analysis of 27 different fluoride studies conducted in China.
It’s important to note that China has a much higher concentration of fluoride than America. The researchers did not offer a definitive statement for fluoride, but said more research must be conducted to fully understand it. This appears to be the first signs of scientists discovering the negative effects of fluoride. Similar to how scientists eventually discovered the link between smoking and negative health effects.
Also, here’s an interesting quote from the Harvard professor that conducted the study:
This makes it critical that you remove fluoride from water if you live in an area that has any trace of fluoride in the water. Even more, you should try to limit the amount of fluoride that you consume to help reduce the risk of any brain damage to your children.
Remember, this is about ensuring the safety of children, which in turn leads to a safer society for generations.
The study did not mention anything about adults losing brain function. So maybe adults are safe?
I wouldn’t take that risk though. That’s just me.
How to Remove Fluoride From Drinking Water?
If you live in an area with a large amount of naturally occurring fluoride in the water, then you should remove it. Even if you live in a municipality that adds fluoride, then you should still remove it.
This is because you can’t control the amount that your municipality adds to your water. So you could consume too much if you are a prolific water drinker.
Now, if you’re one of the lucky Americans that live somewhere without naturally occurring fluoride and no fluoride added to the water, then you don’t need to purchase a filter. Lucky you.
Unfortunately, most Americans will have some fluoride in their water. For those of us, we need to purchase a reverse osmosis system for our home.
I know, you probably think these units are expensive. They have a fancy name that just screams expensive. That was my first thought when my dad mentioned his reverse osmosis. Surprisingly, these units are not as expensive as you’d think. Especially for the amount of contaminants (read: just about everything) they remove from water.
We recommend an iSpring system for someone looking to purchase their first reverse osmosis system. We have an in-depth review of our preferred iSpring RO system here on Water Purification Hub. Also, one of our great writers wrote an extremely comprehensive guide for reverse osmosis systems and recommended a bunch of different systems.
Final Take on Fluoride in Water
All in all, fluoride in the water supply isn’t really the big boogie man that you have to worry about. It isn’t used as a government mind control program or any crazy conspiracy.
The program started with good intentions from an era when government actually tried to serve the people. Since that fateful study in the 1950s it has evolved into an easy punching bag for conspiracy theorists to latch onto and sell filtration devices.
This isn’t to say you should guzzle fluoride. It definitely has some negative effects. One Google search of “dental fluorosis” is all you really need to see.
With that in mind, just be mindful of consuming too much fluoride if you live in an area with a high amount of naturally occurring fluoride in the water (mostly the Southwest United States). If your municipality adds it to your water supply, then you should also be aware of your consumption.
A reverse osmosis system will remove it from water. It also removes a bunch of other contaminants that still remain in your water (arsenic, lead, parasites, etc.) that are definitely not good for you. You can’t really go wrong with an RO system and they actually are much more affordable than you probably think.