I am not an alarmist by any stretch of the imagination, but as a public health scientist I believe the precautionary measure is often times a better choice when science indicates a potential health threat. Being an informed citizen means that you remain aware of potential hazards that could affect the health of you and the ones you love, and to choose accordingly. In public health, to truly know the toxic effects of things comes at the expense of allowing human exposure to occur over time. This means, in order to prove something is toxic, sometimes people have to be affected. Understanding and keeping tabs on environmental health research is critical to know when the precautionary measure should be taken. However, these decisions should always take into account risk vs. benefit.
In a recent study, published in the journal of Environmental Health Perspective, 300 Mexican mothers and their children were evaluated by measuring fluoride levels and cognitive development. The children were tested twice over the course of 12 years. The study found that prenatal exposure to fluoride impacted cognitive development. It also concluded unborn babies are affected more intensely than if a child was exposed after birth.
Although fluoride is not added to public water supplies in Mexico, it is added to drinking water in the US to improve dental health. Other routes of exposure comes from toothpastes, mouth rinses and dental treatments. What’s concerning about all these different routes of exposures is that it is unclear how the cumulative amount of fluoride in our environment is affecting our intelligence. In Mexico, people are exposed through naturally occurring fluoride in water and fluoridated salt and supplements, so this study indicates fluorides affect on cognitive development may be more severe in countries who add fluoride to public water sources like the US. It is important to note, some areas in the US have rejected water fluoridation because of its toxic effect on cognitive development. These cities include Portland, Oregon and Tuscon, Arizona.
Take Home Message of the Day: The fetal system is more sensitive to environmental toxins and requires moms to be extra careful with the food, water, and products they consume during this time period. This is why choosing all natural products during pregnancy is a good idea. Try to drink un-fluoridated water and use fluoride free natural toothpaste. Although fluoride is known to help prevent cavities, using fluoridated products AFTER birth would be a better choice. Here are a few of our favorites!