The fluoridation of our water supply is about as contentious an issue as you can conceive.
Although half a century has elapsed since adding fluoride to drinking water became normal practice, the debate around whether the process is ultimately good – or terribly bad – has barely lowered in volume or intensity.
If you live in the UK, you may or may not be drinking fluoridated water on a daily basis. In this article we explore the possible health implications, and suggest a means of removing fluoride from your tap water if you so desire.
Fluoride is a mineral naturally present in soil, water, plants – even animals in trace amounts. The long-raging debate, however, is not about this fluoride but the artificial kind added to water (and, in Europe, to salt). The difference is significant: the lethal dose of artificial fluoride is 50 times smaller than natural fluoride.
In the 1930s, scientists discovered that small quantities of fluoride naturally present in water could offer teeth a measure of protection by strengthening enamel against decay, and thus the idea of adding fluoride to the public water supply was born.
Although a series of studies were conducted to assess whether fluoridating water could cause harm, research appeared to indicate that the dangers were small. Naturally enough, medical and dental health bodies – having been impressed by fluoride’s ability to combat tooth decay – championed the compound, and in time the process was normalised, spreading outward from the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where it was first instituted.
In addition to preventing tooth decay and cavities, proponents of water fluoridation claim that it saves money, citing the cost of water fluoridation vs the cost of dental fillings. Moreover, they state their belief that it is a safe and effective practice, endorsed by countless health organisations for the best part of 70 years. Of course, this tells only half the story.
It is generally accepted that ingesting large amounts of fluoride long-term can lead to severe skeletal fluorosis. Susceptibility to this debilitating bone disease varies from population to population, although it is a major problem in India, where water has an unusually high naturally-occurring fluoride content.
Fluoride in the UK water supply is capped at one part per million (1ppm) parts of water, whereas in India the concentration has been shown in certain areas to reach 38.5ppm. Critics of water fluoridation have pointed out that although the artificial fluoride content of tap water is low, there is no way to determine how much water a person will drink on any given day.
What’s more, studies in India and China have documented skeletal fluorosis at comparatively low levels – between 0.7 and 1.5ppm.
As well as fluorosis, fluoride could be linked to increased risks of kidney problems, cognitive impairment, depression, osteoporosis, hyperthyroidism and even cancer; some go as far as to claim it’s a form of under-the-radar mass medication, hence why many councils in Britain steadfastly refuse to introduce fluoride to their local water supply, flying in the face of vested interests and government backing.
At present, there is a sense of gridlock: no new fluoridation schemes have been passed in Britain for two decades. That seems unlikely to change in the short-term.
Around 11% of the UK population, comprising six million people, are given artificially fluoridated water through the mains supply. Areas include Birmingham, Yorkshire and the Humber, and Tyneside, with Hartlepool and Essex receiving naturally-fluoridated water.
Your local water supplier will be able to tell you how much fluoride is in your supply, and whether any is added artificially.
Interestingly, the average number of decayed, extracted or filled teeth in Birmingham – a city of one million people – is higher than the national average, despite the water being fluoridated.
The anti-fluoridation brigade is not confined to Britain. In recent times, countries such as Germany, Sweden and Switzerland have been phasing out the policy of fluoridating water. In fact, less than 2% of Europe’s population is served fluoridated water through the tap.
Dosage levels in the US, where 150 million people are exposed to fluoride, have been reduced to 0.7ppm, and the same is true for Canada and the Republic of Ireland.
As people become more informed, many are unwilling to take risks with their health by drinking – or being forced to drink – water they consider harmful to their long-term health.
Wishing to limit your exposure to fluoride is not uncommon. Your options are obvious: spend a small fortune on expensive bottled water or use a high-quality water filter to remove or reduce the levels of fluoride you are exposed to.
The Energy Plus is a four-stage undersink water filter offering high levels of contaminant removal using natural bioceramic minerals. In tests run by the University of Edinburgh’s Department of Engineering, fluoride, heavy metals and organic contaminants were shown to be reduced to below the limits of detection.
You can read more about the University of Edinburgh’s analysis, and the various contaminants filtered by the Energy Plus, here. If you have any questions about the filter, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can reach us by email and you can also call us, on +44 (0) 1764 662111.
No new fluoridation schemes have been passed in Britain for two decades. That seems unlikely to change in the short-term.