In the mid-1940s, some U.S. cities began adding tiny amounts of fluoride to public water supplies in hopes of fighting tooth decay. John Birch types suspected this was a communist plot and some eventually considered it a danger right up there with Buddy Holly and A Catcher in the Rye (although the Society itself only formally objected to the concept of governments making unilateral health decisions for the populace).
These days, Nazis have replaced Commies as the oppressive regime most associated with fluoridated water. There are some baseless online assertions that it was used in death camps to make the captives either compliant or stupid. Politifact interviewed U.S. Holocaust Museum historian Patricia Heberer, who insisted that none of the Nazi’s infamous medical experiments involved fluoride. Even if they had, it would be fallacious thinking to declare, “Nazis were evil. Nazis used fluoridated water. Therefore fluoridated water is evil.” The specific fallacy here is one of composition, where it is asserted that something that is true as a whole is true of any part of it.
About 75 percent of U.S. homes today receive fluoridated water. I’m unsure what Minnesota’s policy was in the late 1990s, but fluoridated water there had a powerful opponent at the time, Gov. Jesse Ventura. In an interview with Salon, Ventura gave the obligatory Third Reich reference, followed by a more reasoned stance about health care decisions being left to the parents, before getting to his primary point. “Fluoride is the main component of Prozac! What you’ve got is people drinking Prozac-water! Prozac calms you and dumbs you down so you’re less emotional.” With a rant like that, we can be sure Ventura hadn’t had any Prozac water beforehand. But equating one ingredient in a substance with the substance itself would be like calling Ventura a glass of water since his body is about two-thirds that.
When Politifact contacted Ventura about his source for these claims, he provided them a link to prisonplanet.com, an Alex Jones site. Jones calls fluoridated water a chemical weapon meant to depopulate, which if true serves as a shining example of government inefficiency. Since this genocide-by-faucet effort began 70 years ago, the U.S. population has increased 130 percent.
Another fluoride folly from Jones is claiming that studies have shown that fluoridated water brings downs children’s IQ. Joseph Mercola and Mike Adams have also championed this idea, which they based on a press release distributed by Fluoride Action Now. Reuters mistakenly ran the release as a news article, thus spooking more people than if it had just appeared on Natural News or InfoWars. The release claimed that a Harvard review of 42 studies showed that U.S. children exposed to fluoridated drinking water suffered lower IQs. But going beyond the exclamation points and panic over stealthy mind control, we find the review made no such claim. In fact, none of the studies were about U.S. fluoridated water.
Mercola wrote that the studies linked moderate-to-high high fluoride exposure with reduced intelligence. These conclusions were likely correct, but Mercola is playing a word game here and hoping no one notices. He used these studies to bolster his contention that fluoridated water was a danger. Yet the amount of fluoride in most U.S. drinking water is between one-half and one milligram per liter, while the studies Mercola cited were dealing with persons exposed to between 2 to 10 milligrams per liter and who also ingested fluoride from burning coal.
So while the studies showed that children who lived in areas with high fluoride exposure had lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-exposure areas, scale and context must be considered. With regard to scale, Dr. Steven Novella said: “Most of these studies’ high-fluoride groups used concentrations many times higher than allowable limits in the United States, and many of the low-fluoride groups had concentrations in the range that is optimal by water fluoridation regulations.” This means the negative IQ impact occurred only in areas where fluoride levels were much higher than what the EPA permits.
As far as context, none of the studies involved populations exposed to artificially-fluoridated drinking water. Instead, all the studies came from parts of China or Iran that have endemic high-fluoride well water, in addition to the burning coal.
Many chemicals are benign at low doses, harmful at medium amounts, and fatal in high concentrations. The same Mercola website that called fluoridated water a danger to children ran an article that referred to kale as “a superfood unparalleled among green leafy vegetables.”
Yet Snopes pointed out that kale contains thiocyanate, which can kill if ingested in sufficient quantities. It would be absurd to suggest that kale could kill, but no more ridiculous than asserting fluoridated water is a public health menace. To the contrary, the CDC lists it as one of the 10 Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century. Drink it, brush your teeth with it, wash your kale off with it, you’ll be fine.