Consuming water with fluoride at levels used for public supplies is safe: study reassures

Research from The University of Queensland has found no link between community water fluoridation and adverse effects on children's brain development.

Professor Loc Do from UQ's School of Dentistry said the study examined the difference between the brain development and function of children who'd been exposed to fluoridated water in early childhood with those who weren't.

We found emotional and behavioral development, and functions such as memory and self-control, were at least equivalent to those who had no exposure to fluoridated water. In other words, there was no difference in child development and function related to fluoridated water. This finding shows that consuming water with fluoride at levels used for public supplies in Australia is safe and it supports continuing and expanding fluoridation programs."

Loc Do, Professor, School of Dentistry, The University of Queensland

Currently, approximately 90 per cent of the Australian population has access to fluoridated water, although in Queensland it is 71 per cent.

Many regional Queensland areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are not covered by a fluoridation program.

"A small but vocal group of people sometimes claims that water fluoridation can have adverse neurodevelopment effects, especially in young children," Professor Do said.

"This concern can impact community and public health support for the practice, but our research provides reassurance that it is safe and supports its expansion into more communities.

"This is an important message because fluoride is extremely effective in preventing tooth decay and its use in water and toothpaste is credited with significant improvements in child dental health in Australia."

Dental caries (also known as tooth decay or dental cavities) is the most common chronic childhood disease worldwide causing pain and infection and can lead to tooth extraction.

The UQ study followed up child participants of Australia's National Child Oral Health study 2012-2014 when they were aged 12 to 17 years.

It measured their emotional and behavioral development using a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and executive brain function using the Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Function - both instruments widely used in population health surveys.

The study was funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Project grant, and it is a collaboration between The University of Queensland, University of Adelaide and University of Western Australia in Australia, along with the University of Bristol in the UK.


  1. Nys Cof Nys Cof United States says:

    Whether for or against fluoridation, this study is meaningless. It simply matched kids to water supply that served their residence.  Many don't drink the water.  Also a better determinant is total fluoride intake - either from a typical market basket analysis - or to obtain blood, urine, nail and other samples to find out just how much fluoride these kids ingested.  Fluoride is in virtually all foods and beverages, especially high in tea, ocean fish and grape juice. It's absorbed from dental products and inhaled from air pollution.  It's in some drugs and anesthetics.  It's odd that this poorly done study is getting widely publicized when there are 76 well-done studies showing that fluoride lowers IQ - even at levels commonly consumed (and not all from China).  Fluoride isn't a nutrient or essential for healthy teeth.  So there's no scientifically valid reason to be adding it to drinking water in the first place. Consuming a fluoride-free diet doesn't cause cavities.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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