A retired dentist friend of mine has been saying for years that fluoride in tap water is dangerous. And for years I've been half wondering why she thinks it's dangerous, and half hoping she's just wrong. Well, I can't ignore the warnings anymore. A Harvard University study has concluded that children who live in areas with highly fluoridated water have significantly lower IQ scores than kids who live in areas with low-fluoride water.
I live in one of those high-fluoridated water areas. New York City loves itself some fluoridated water -- in a big way. And my son drinks tap water. So what's a parent to do? Panic?
I contacted that dentist friend of mine, Dr. Susan Rubin, to find out what she recommends. Like most dentists, she was taught in dental school that fluoride saves teeth, and it never occurred to her to question that (even after her patients started bringing it up) until her own daughter came down with thyroid problems. Oh yeah, fluoride can affect that, too. She did her own research and was alarmed at what she found. She tried to get her town to stop putting fluoride in her water, but they refused.
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Moderate amounts of fluoride appear to benefit the teeth of children ages 1 through 7. But for babies under 1 who drink formula from a powder mix, it's especially harmful. If you mix your formula with tap water, you could be giving your baby about 200 times the regular does of fluoride. (Breast milk filters out the fluoride taken in by nursing moms through tap water.) Even the CDC recommends infants under 1 not be fed fluoridated tap water.
One thing you can do is buy a special filter that targets fluoride (filters for chlorine won't do the job). Dr. Rubin recommends Berkey filters -- if you can afford them, that is. Unfortunately, those filters are kind of expensive. I guess there's always bottled water, but that's a whole other mess to navigate, not to mention the expense there, too. "Only people with a lot of money can do something about their water, and that makes fluoridating municipal tap water unethical," Dr. Rubin says.
Hopefully, now that this study is out, more leaders will listen to concerned parents and health professional and reconsider not fluoridating tap water. Maybe we should all email our respective mayors a copy of this study, which you can download for free. Meanwhile, if you want to learn more, you can check out Fluoride Action Network.
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