Why We Changed Our Minds About Water Fluoridation

The Fluoride/Thyroid Connection

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Like many of our professional colleagues, we long held a belief that the practice of water fluoridation was highly beneficial and relatively low-risk. Currently, we feel otherwise. We are now convinced that it is of small benefit, and carries an unacceptably large risk.

What changed our thinking so dramatically on this important issue? 

We had been a prevention-oriented doctor-nurse team working together for twenty-five years.

We had raised three children together, and had always viewed good dental care as an integral part of a complete health program. After training at Harvard and Walter Reed respectively, Rich worked at the National Institutes of Health and Karilee served as a nursing professor, before we each eventually settled into private practice.

Nothing on this path shook our faith in fluoride. In fact, it was not until we were working on our 2001 book, Thyroid Power, that we did our homework on this subject. The topic Thyroid Power was the unexplained skyrocketing of thyroid disease and its spin-off epidemics of fatigue, depression, anxiety, infertility, and weight gain.

While researching influences on the thyroid gland, we explored long lists of articles, from scientists around the world, reporting in medical journals on the effects of fluoride.

We then did a review of the history of thyroid treatment, which showed that fluoride had previously been used by as a medication, in order to deliberately slow down overactive thyroid glands (hyperthyroidism).

It is no longer used for that purpose, because there are stronger antithyroid drugs like Tapazole.

This surprising data was at first an unexpected challenge to our medical and nursing education. But then we recalled being taught that no substance has just one action on the human body. They all have multiple actions.

Every medicine has a good action, called “the benefit,” and other less desirable actions called “side effects.”

In hindsight, it did seem odd that water fluoridation was a policy that had only great benefits, with no side effects. Once we researched it more fully, it also seemed curious that fluoride was the only substance classified as a medicine ever to be added to public drinking waters.

At this point, we felt compelled to investigate further. After reviewing hundreds of articles and books, it became clear that, regardless of any other benefits and side effects, fluoride could indeed be considered a “hormone disruptor.” These are a class of chemicals from many unrelated sources, that have the unintended consequence of altering the proper function of important hormones in the body, such as thyroid.

For example, in the Archives of Oral Biology (1982, Volume 27), Kleiner found that fluoride interfered with proper metabolism of cyclic-AMP and thus diminished cellular energy.

Next, a career university scientist showed us a large textbook about the mechanisms of fluoride tissue harm.

Kenneth Kirk in his carefully written volume called Biochemistry of the Elemental Halogens and Inorganic Halides (Plenum Press NY, NY: 1991), described fluoride’s remarkable disruption of enzyme systems.

We then consulted with a toxicology expert, who explained still another harmful fluoride effect. It progressively disrupts the sensitive G-proteins. These are the building blocks of our body’s hormone receptors. (For example, receptors are where thyroid hormone actually starts doing its job at the cell level.)

But at what dilution did fluoride have this disruptive effect? At high concentrations, it is well known to be acutely poisonous and caustic. Could it be that at the low concentrations in municipal water, teeth are being helped without thyroids being harmed?

The data actually showed otherwise. Contradicting the hoped-for scenario is research going back half a century. For instance, we came across a 1958 study by Galletti and Joyet, published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The paper was titled, “Effect of Fluorine on Thyroidal Iodine Metabolism and Hyperthyroidism.” These scientists showed that fluoride in the range of 2 to 5 mg. per day (what people now ingest in a fluoridated area) was enough to slow down thyroid function.

Subsequent research on fluoride/thyroid was just as worrisome. Moreover, an added problem appeared. We learned that the source of fluoride for municipalities is not sodium fluoride, the compound used by researchers to determine benefit versus risk. Instead, surprisingly, we found that what is added to almost all city water when it is fluoridated is the industrial waste product hydrofluosilicic acid.

This scrubber waste item, generally from phosphate fertilizer production, is frequently contaminated with varying amounts of cadmium, aluminum, arsenic, lead, or mercury. We found serious studies showing that minute amounts of these heavy metals (much less than would generally be considered toxic) are harmful in various ways when combined with fluoride. Moreover, we were amazed to find out that not a single safety test has ever been performed on hydrofluocilicic acid!

Thus, we came out “against fluoride” in our Thyroid Power book. But fluoride is not simply an isolated problem for identified thyroid patients. As a widespread hormone disruptor it is very likely to be causing wider mischief, even at supposed safe levels.

This larger environmental issue became the a key topic in our 2005 book, Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled? With fluoride added to municipal water supplies, many millions of people are deliberately exposed to a hormone-altering agent. There is certainly now a massive epidemic of low thyroid, low adrenal, and low functioning sex glands. Many people rightly complain, “There must be something wrong with my hormones.”

Fluoride is, of course, just one of a great many environmental hormone disruptors. However, it is the only one we purposely put into our drinking water. Perhaps the most sensitive among us are like the canaries brought down into the mines. They might be feeling the adverse effects first. Their vague symptoms of ill health could be the early warning signal for us all.

But, do not just take our word for it. Get info from a variety of sources. A good start would be to go to evaluate your thyroid, adrenal, and reproductive hormone levels and identify imbalanaces.

If your levels are low, it could be that the not-so-innocent water additive is playing a role. You might be as surprised as we were. And maybe you too will change your mind about fluoride.

Richard L. Shames MD & Karilee H. Shames PhD, RN are authors of popular books for thyroid patients, including Thyroid PowerFeeling Fat, Fuzzy and Frazzled? and Thyroid Mind Power. More information is available about their books and coaching sessions at their site.

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