May 31, 2008

The Dangers of Fluoride

The last century has seen a number of scientific miracles in the field of human health, but often at a cost. No longer do advertisements sporting quotes from doctors proclaiming the benefits of smoking this or that brand of cigarette dot the pages of popular magazines. Gas pumps are fitted with a stickers reading “unleaded” due to over sixty years of poisoning drivers with the leaded fumes. It is easy to dismiss these cases by claiming that the country has come a long way and such deception is not possible today, but this idea has serious flaws. Every day people are surrounded by permitted dangers. One of these is fluoride.

What is it and where is it found?
Since the 1940s, fluoride has been hailed as the chemical that would save the mouths of America from cavities and rot. While it is not essential to the perpetual workings of the human body, it was supposed to increase the strength of the tooth and fight plaque. As dental health improved over time, the success was deemed to be that of the fluoride. Nothing else, such as the increasing importance of oral hygiene and increasingly balanced diets, was included in the equation. Soon, countries all over the modernized world began to give fluoridated water a try but ceased and began a process of scientific scrutiny after they saw the negative effects. Nearly every European country has rejected the chemical from hygienic products as well.
While it occurs naturally in the earth’s crust, the real damage is rooted in its acceptance into the American home. Virtually everyone in the United States encounters fluoride on a daily basis whether it be found in toothpaste, mouthwash, water or processed foods. 66% of people in the United States drink from a fluoridated water source. Because this water is generally found in large cities, it is commonly used in factories or refineries, especially those handling food, soda and alcoholic beverages. Because the Environmental Protection Agency claims that fluoride does not hurt humans or the environment, farms use the toxin in pesticide mixes resulting further contamination.

Health Risks
With so many conflicting viewpoints between the government and scientists, doctors and naturopaths it can be difficult to find information that has not been twisted. There have been a number of supposed scandals about the origins of fluoride use by both governments and corporations, even some associated with the Nazis of World War II and alleged use in concentration camps. Because of these extreme statements, anti-fluoride activists have been dismissed as insane. However, there is a good deal of scientific research that is commonly overlooked. Among these are two proven ailments, dental and skeletal fluorosis, and numerous links to thyroid malfunction, depression, and lower IQ levels.
Dental fluorosis is caused when fluoride damages the ameloblasts, cells that give teeth their enamel protection. When a child ingests too much fluoride while their teeth are forming, these cells are destroyed and while the tooth may be rid of cavities, the teeth become weak and unattractive. Because they are so easily damaged, many children will need to receive extra dental care in the form of fillings and repairs. Aside from being weak, the teeth will appear to be stained with spots of color ranging from something of a neon white to coffee brown. This is primarily caused by fluoride ingestion, especially of prescribed medications for those living without fluoridated tap water. 30 to 45% of children who have received these supplements have problems with dental fluorosis.
An even more serious disease is skeletal fluorosis. Similar to its counterpart in the mouth, it is caused when fluoride builds up in the bones from being ingested. This causes the bones to become weak while it hardens ligaments near the area of accumulation. While restricting levels of fluoride, even after diagnosis, will allow the body to recover, the disease is rarely diagnosed properly. The symptoms of skeletal fluorosis are so similar to rheumatism and arthritis that the disease is often wrongfully and unsuccessfully treated as such.
Brain damage in the forms of depression, attention deficit disorder, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have all been linked to low levels of fluoride intake in numerous cases. Fluoride accumulates in the brain, throwing off regular functions of both voluntary and involuntary occurrences as it develops into beta-amyloid plaques. Results of tests run on industrial workers and children have shown decreased mental ability to store memory and the incapacity of the brain to conduct regular patterns of disease defense and growth.

Fixing the Problem
The most important aspect in the fight against fluoride is building upon the information that has been obtained and furthering research and open discussion about the topic. As of now, both the “green movement” and the United States government outright disagree with the idea that low levels of fluoride intake pose any risk at all to the population. While they claim that the lack of scientific evidence is enough to make this assumption, it should be noted that many men and women who devoted their time to studying the effects of fluoride were disenfranchised and blacklisted from the United States science community. While the cities desiring to add fluoride to their water must gain permission from the ballot, citizens commonly lack the information needed to make adequate judgments about the idea. Should this information become open it could lead to a revolution similar to that faced by the gasoline and tobacco companies decades ago, bettering the overall health of those in the United States, or at the very least giving people the conscious choice to put yet another harmful chemical into their bodies.

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