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9 June 2009

Fluoride study raises fresh questions about the safety of water fluoridation

A new cancer study from India suggests that fluoride is a contributing factor to osteosarcoma, or bone cancer - but just how much fluoride intake causes the uncommon disease is not clear.

Fluoride in Americans’ tap water has spurred controversy since its introduction in 1945. Anti-fluoride activists say the risks are too high to add “medication” to the water, while government officials cite scientific studies that prove fewer cavities and no serious risk.

In Europe, most countries refuse to treat their water with fluoride with the exception of the United Kingdom. According to the British Medical Journal, fluoridation was introduced in 1963, and the Department of Health reports that rates of dental decay have been reduced 70 percent. But experts remain divided over epidemiological research that has suggested that water fluoridation might be linked to osteoporosis, dental fluorosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and other health problems.

The latest cancer study indicates blood fluoride levels were significantly higher in patients with osteosarcoma than in control groups, according to research published in Biological Trace Element Research (April 2009).

Osteosarcoma occurs mostly in children and young adults. According to the study, status of fluoride levels in the serum of osteosarcoma is still not clear. Other reports have also indicated that there is a link between fluoride exposure and osteosarcoma.

“The more studies that we have which talk about osteosarcoma with fluoride, the more the scientific community will take notice and eventually blind politicians will do the same,” said Paul Beeber, president of the New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation.


So far U.S. government health officials don’t agree.

The American Dental Association issued a statement that community water fluoridation is a safe, effective public health measure for preventing tooth decay after a similar study appeared in 2006.

After more than 60 years of rigorous scientific study of water fluoridation, ADA officials said “the overwhelming weight of scientific evidences does not show an association with osteosarcoma.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokeswoman Janis Winogradsky said they don’t comment on outside studies. But she referred to a National Research Study done for the Environmental Protection Agency in 2006 in which researchers reviewed the literature on fluoride exposure and osteosarcoma. The report states that the literature does not clearly indicate that fluoride is carcinogenic in humans.

According to the American Cancer Society, osteosarcoma is a rare cancer, which means it can be hard to gather enough cases to do large studies. Smaller studies can usually detect large differences in cancer rates between two groups, but they may not be able to detect a smaller difference.

Nearly 70 percent of U.S. residents who get water from public water systems now have fluoridated water, according to the CDC. The rationale: Water fluoridation is a low-cost way to bring the benefits of fluoride to all residents.

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