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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 24.4 > The SkepDoc

The SkepDoc

Water Fluoridation: Public Health, Not Poison

I THINK WE CAN ALL AGREE THAT “LOOK, Mom—no cavities!” is good news. But we continue to disagree about the best way to achieve that. Fluoridation of public water sources remains controversial as a public health measure despite the strong evidence that fluoride prevents tooth decay. Public debates can become quite heated, with one side praising water fluoridation as an essential preventive and the other side demonizing it as coerced ingestion of a poison. Recently fluoridation has faced new accusations that it lowers IQ. Which side is right? Let’s see how the evidence and the arguments on each side hold up to scrutiny.

Optimal Level of Fluoride in Drinking Water

The natural fluoride content of drinking water varies widely by geographic location. Studies have shown that people whose water is low in fluoride are more likely to develop cavities. If the fluoride content is too high, they can develop fluorosis, with tooth discoloration and other problems. The EPA has set maximum levels of fluoride at 2 ppm to prevent enamel fluorosis and 4 ppm to prevent skeletal fluorosis. The World Health Organization has set the recommended maximum level at 1.5 ppm.

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About Skeptic

UNDERSTANDING FLAT EARTHERS WHO SAYS THE EARTH IS FLAT, AND WHY? COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Water Fluoridation: Public Health, Not Poison, by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: Are You in the 43 Percent?, by Carol Tavris DEBATE Does God Exist? A Rebuttal of Theologian Brian Huffling • God is Not a Moral Being: A Response to Gary Whittenberger on the Problem of Evil ARTICLES Understanding Flat Earthers • Shroud of Turin Update • The Girl Who Smelled Blue: The Colorful Case of Willetta Huggins • How to Navigate Contentious Conversations • How Much Longer Will Cancer Screening Myths Survive? • Nationalistic Pseudohistory in the Balkans • “Prove that I am Wrong!” What QAnon, Descartes, and Brains in Vats Have in Common REVIEWS Reviews of Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness • The Human Swarm: How Tolerance of Strangers Creates Society • Darwin’s Apostles: The Men Who Fought to Have Evolution Accepted, Their Times, and How the Battle Continues • Forensic Science Reform: Protecting the Innocent • The Psychology and Sociology of Wrongful Convictions: Forensic Science Reform • Blinding as a Solution to Bias: Strengthening Biomedical Science, Forensic Science, and Law JUNIOR SKEPTIC Victorian England’s Jurassic Park, by Daniel Loxton