Last month, Environmental Health Perspectives published an article titled “Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Cognitive Outcomes in Children at 4 and 6-12 Years in Mexico.”

The article is notable not only for its substance but also for the fact that the publication it appeared in has support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. NIEHS falls within the National Institutes of Health under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Further, the study itself was supported by NIH, NIEHS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the Ministry of Health in Mexico.

In a sense, the findings of the study are not new. They indicate the likelihood that exposure to fluoride above a certain level will lower the IQ of children. Numerous earlier studies have pointed in the same direction, raising warning flags for fluoride exposure through community water fluoridation and other sources.

What is especially notable is that you have an arm of the U.S. government putting forth a study that challenges a central public health policy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That policy is community water fluoridation.

While the NIEHS publication did not endorse the study, it saw fit to publish it. That’s significant inasmuch as promoters of fluoridation, like the American Dental Association, dismiss challenges to fluoridation as affronts to settled science.

You may ask how the fluoridation policy is challenged. How is a measure deemed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be one of the “10 great public health achievements of the 20th century” undermined by this recent study? Here’s how:

1. The fluoride exposures of the pregnant women in the study corresponded to exposures found in persons living in fluoridated communities.

2. The effect found was large. At a level of 0.9 parts per million in the mothers’ urine (which would be reached by many women in fluoridated communities), the associated IQ loss was 5 to 6 points. If such a drop were to occur in the whole population, it would more than halve the number of very bright children (IQ greater than 130) and increase by more than half the number of mentally handicapped (IQ less than 70).

3. The study demands respect. It is strong in controlling for confounding factors, that is, conditions that might affect IQ other than fluoride.

Publication of the “Prenatal Fluoride” study came close on the heels of the Sixth Annual Citizens Convention of the Fluoride Action Network in Crystal City, Virginia, from Sept. 15 to 18. The convention represented a number of states, four other countries, and the Akwesasne Territory within Canada and the United States.

Throughout our four-day gathering, we reviewed the developing science on fluoridation, the political fight and how it is best conducted, and the evidence that the fluoridation house of cards teeters ever closer to collapse.

We took heart with the reminder that the world is not embracing fluoridation, but is rejecting it. Canada, for instance, has gone from 45 percent fluoridated to 29 percent in recent years. Worldwide, 95 percent of the population is fluoridation-free, and a number of countries that once had it no longer do. The Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland are among the defectors.

Similarly, many respected organizations have either withdrawn endorsements or are neutral on fluoridation. This counters the impression fostered by the American Dental Association and public health agencies that any entity worth its salt endorses fluoridation. Outright opponents of fluoridation include the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, the Environmental Working Group, Food and Water Watch, the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Organic Consumers Association.

Organizations that once endorsed fluoridation but no longer do include the American Cancer Society, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumers Union (Consumer Reports), the National Kidney Foundation, the National Down Syndrome Congress and the New York Academy of Medicine.

At each of our convention workshops and sessions, organizers wisely provided bottles of fluoride-free water. This allowed us to avoid the fluoridated Arlington County water supply.

But we shouldn’t have had to bring our water. Our ranks included people with known fluoride sensitivity. Nor should any citizen have to spend money and lug home drinking water to opt out of mass medication imposed by government authority.

Jack Crowther of Rutland is retired. He worked as a journalist and in corporate communications.

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