Poisons in your Mouth

Part I:  Fluoridation of drinking water

Dr Mike Godfrey  

First published in Organic NZ, November/December 2009, Vol 68 No 6 - www.organicnz.org

Reprinted here with permission from Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility (PSGR) who provide the material for the ONZ Science Watch page. PSGR supports a fluoride-free New Zealand. www.psgr.org.nz


Fluoridation of drinking water – Is it safe? Is it effective?

If excessive doses of fluoride cause health problems, the question arises why even risk adding it to drinking water supplies?

Writing recently on the UK Councils Against Fluoridation website www.ukcaf.org, Doug Cross1 analyses a 2005 Ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Community (CJEC). He says: “Fluoridated water must be treated as a medicine, and cannot be used to prepare foods.” Where two different sets of rules appear to apply to a product, the Court ruled that medicinal legislation must take precedent.2

Cross is referring to a landmark case on the classification and regulation of ‘functional drinks’ in member states of the European Community.3 “Functional drinks,” Cross says, “are those products that have two different purposes – for example, nutrition and exerting a positive effect on some medical condition. They include ‘near-water drinks with added minerals’ and, in view of the properties claimed for fluoridated water by fluoride advocates, it must be classified as a ‘functional food’ and therefore falls within the scope of the relevant legislation.”

In a nutshell, fluoridated water must be regulated as medicinal whether it is used in a product or to produce a product. Cross says: “Fluoridated water has no medicinal marketing authorization (‘product licence’) and because of this it is – and always has been - illegal to supply it to the public, as the British 1968 Medicines Act confirms.” In NZ, the website for Health Freedom NZ (www.healthfreedom.co.nz) clearlystates: “Fluoridation contravenes the Medicines Act of 1981.”

How the Court of Justice came to make the Ruling

The Advocate General of the CJEC, Lendeert Geelhoed, explained that an application was made to import into Germany products marketed in Holland as food supplements. The request was refused. Subsequently, a submission was made to the CJEC comprising a series of questions concerning the interpretation of the relevant Community law, and this ultimately led to the current Ruling.4

CJEC Rulings do not establish new legislation - they clarify how existing laws should be applied - but they are enforceable in all member states of the European Community. This 2005 Ruling clearly prohibits the use of fluoridated water in processing “functional food products” - foods and drinks, and retail catering and because fluoridated water would be classed “medicinal” it is not equivalent to drinking water for human consumption.

Will this affect NZ?

In Europe, all wholesale and retail food processing and retail catering outlets in fluoridated areas should have stopped production, or found and installed alternative water supplies. The Ruling also has potential economic implications for countries such as NZ for food and drink producers who export to the Community, unless they can prove that their products have been prepared using only unfluoridated water.5

Doug Cross highlighted “the repeated refusal of the British and Irish Regulators to recognise fluoridated water as a medicinal product is therefore an unlawful misuse of their powers…” In light of the CJEC Ruling, this could also be applied to any council anywhere that fluoridates drinking water supplies. Globally, some communities have already discontinued water fluoridation; e.g. in Finland, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland. The reasons vary, but one is that fluoride is a poison.6

Is fluoride a poison?

Yes.7 Fluoride is a molecule that contains the element fluorine (F); obtained by combining fluorine with another element. Fluorine forms compounds with all elements except helium and neon, thus providing a large range of fluorides. Organic and inorganic compounds containing fluorine are considered fluorides.

Fluorides range from severe toxins, e.g. the nerve gas, sarin, to potentially beneficial pharmaceuticals such as efavirenz, and from refractory materials such as calcium fluoride to highly reactive sulfur tetrafluoride. The fluoride added to drinking water is generally hexafluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6) or sodium hexafluorosilicate (Na2SiF26).

Advocates claiming that fluoride added to drinking water strengthens teeth and bones, also claim that many things we ingest are potentially poisonous. True. But, while we can establish and regulate what level of fluoride is in any given water supply, one has to ask: What quantity is harmful to humans? How does one assess and/or control the quantity of fluoride consumed from water or other products, especially for the aged, those with a compromised immune system, the very young, even small pets?

Fluoride occurs naturally in most water, and in tea leaves and seaweed. It is used in rat poisons and insecticides to aid the kill rate. Fluoridated table salt may contain 250 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride, which could result in a daily intake of 2.5 mg of fluoride for anyone consuming 10 grams of salt. The UK Food Standards Agency says men eat a daily average of 11g of salt and women an average of 8.1g a day; the recommended daily limit is 6g.8

Some manufacturers add fluoride to toothpaste and mouthwash preparations. While most adults spit toothpaste out after brushing, children tend to swallow it. The Fluoride Action Network NZ website (www.fannz.org.nz) reports that, in 2003, the NZ Dental Association promoted advertisements telling children not to spit out all their toothpaste, but “chew it” onto the surfaces of the molars, then leave it there. Obviously, this would result in swallowing. It also states that, “in 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration required fluoride-containing toothpaste to carry the warning: ‘Use only a pea-sized amount and supervise child’s brushing and rinsing (to minimize swallowing.” It warns parents to keep toothpaste “out of the reach of children under 6 years of age,” adding that if the child swallows more than a pea-sized amount, “contact a Poison Control Centre immediately.”

Confused? The FANNZ website also reports: “The American Dental Association released a recommendation in November 2006 that infant formula NOT be made with fluoridated water. The ADA states: ‘If liquid or powdered concentrate infant formula is the primary source of nutrition, mix with water that is fluoride free, including water that is labelled purified, demineralized, deionized, distilled or reverse osmosis filtered water.’”9

Toxicity mostly occurs when someone ingests a sizable quantity of fluoride from exposure to, for example, an insecticide. In the stomach, fluoride forms hydrofluoric acid, which can irritate and corrode the stomach lining. Once absorbed, fluoride minimally causes a bad stomach-ache and/or diarrhoea. However, it can also cause serious gastro-intestinal problems, even seizures at doses of above 3 mg per kilogram of body weight. Doses of 5-10 grams for an adult (500 mg for a child) can damage major organs and be potentially fatal.

The most common adverse effects of drinking fluoridated water over a long period of time are the discoloration or corrosion of teeth, called dental fluorosis, and/or skeletal fluorosis, characterized by hyperostosis, osteopetrosis, and osteoporosis. It is ironic that these conditions actually weaken, rather than strengthen teeth and bones.

Further confusion

In March 2006, the US National Research Council claimed the EPA was allowing fluoride levels in drinking water that could damage children’s teeth. Yet what fluoridation advocates seem to ignore is that most drinking water sources naturally contain fluoride, in amounts ranging from 0.05 to 14 ppm.10 A scattering of natural sources will have levels greater than the highest safe amount recommended by the US EPA, 4 ppm. According to the American Dental Association,11 the optimal dose varies from 0.7-1.2 ppm. The National Research Council12 and the US National Academy of Sciences13 say levels above 2 ppm can cause white spots on teeth. Just to confuse still further, the US National Academy of Sciences recommends 1.5-4 mg daily to support healthy teeth and bones.14

 Despite its authority, the 2005 European Court of Justice Ruling has largely been ignored. Applied, it could solve the problem of consensus and see the end of the fluoridation of drinking water.

Where to find fluoride in food

Fluoride is naturally present in seawater as sodium fluoride, thus the foods with the highest levels of fluoride are fish (fresh and canned). It can also be found in beverages and soups.15 Most fizzy drinks have fluoride levels in excess of 0.60 ppm and as high as 1.10 ppm.16 Fluoride in tea can range from 0.1-4.2 ppm.17 Researchers found that ‘instant’ tea may contain as much as 6.5 ppm of fluoride.18 An analyses of nineteen California wines found fluoride concentrations of 0.23-2.80 ppm, seven samples being above the international limit of 1 ppm,19 and beers brewed in locations with high fluoride water levels may contribute significantly to the daily fluoride intake.20

Food processing can concentrate fluoride, and foods processed with fluoridated water typically have higher concentrations than foods processed with non-fluoridated water; e.g. cereals.21 When fluoridated water is boiled in your Teflon lined pan, the concentration of fluoride ion increases.22 It is also found in anaesthetics and cigarettes.23

Fluoride in the food chain is a bio-accumulator and levels are likely to continue increasing unless legislation ends its use.24

Finally, is it effective?

The NZ child population is too small for any statistically valid results. However, any benefits are miniscule - less than one small filling - and only detectible in primary dentition with no benefits to the permanent teeth. The absence of clinically significant benefits has been shown by the largest study in history in the US, conducted by the National Institute for Dental Research in 1990 on 12-year-olds25, and an Australian study in 1996 based on a lifetime of exposure.26

The early Maori population would have had rampant decay if this was due to our so-called fluoride-deficient water. However, only 1:2,000 teeth (0.05%) showed any decay in many skulls examined in the 1930's by Dr Weston Price, a Past-President of the American Dental Association. Dental decay is not a fluoride-deficiency disease.


Mike Godfrey MBBS, FACAM, FACNEM is medical director of the Bay of Plenty Environmental Health Clinic and Clinical Thermography Ltd, Tauranga


Check out: 



www.fannz.org.nz/ismytownfluoridated.php to see if your water supply is fluoridated (NZ only)

www.fannz.org.nz/importantdevelopments.php for the latest fluoride information


Enquiries for Poisons in your mouth - Fluoridation and Amalgam by Mike Godfrey and Robert Anderson should be addressed to Stella at Nature's Star NZ Ltd naturesstar@xtra.co.nz




1. ‘European Court Ruling spells an end to water fluoridation,’ Doug Cross, 10th May 2009.

2. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/Notice.do?val=401136:cs&lang=en&list=483014:cs,459213:cs,450721: cs,424316:cs,401136:cs,401132:cs,287452:cs,357785:cs,250904:cs,250903:cs,&pos=5&page=1&nbl=24&pgs=10&hwords=&checktexte=checkbox&visu=#SM.

3. HLH Warenvertriebs and Orthica (Joined Cases C-211/03, C-299/03, C-316/03 and C-318/03) 9 June 2005) http://curia.europa.eu.

4. Oberverwaltungsgericht für das Land Nordrhein Westfalen (Higher Administrative Court for the Land of Nordrhein-Westfalen).

5. www.ukcaf.org, 21 July 2009l HLH Warenvertriebs and Orthica [Joined Cases C-211/03, C-299/03, C-316/03 and C-318/03] 9 June 2005.
6. Cheng KK, Chalmers I, Sheldon TA (2007); www.appgaf.org.uk/data/433-water-fluoridation.pdf. Retrieved on 2009-04-09.

7. http://health.howstuffworks.com/fluoride-poisoning.htm/printable; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoride.

8. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3650578.stm.

9. www.ada.org/prof/resources/pubs/epubs/egram/egram_061109.pdf.

10. A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition, David A Bender, OUP 2005.

11. www.ada.org/public/topics/fluoride/index.asp.

12. Drugs.com.

13. www.nationalacademies.org/nrc.

14. www.fluoridation.com/skeletal.htm.

15. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) (2001). Toxicological Profile for Fluorides: Draft Profile for Public Comment. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service.

16. Heilman JR, et al. (1999); Warren JJ, Levy SM. (1999).

17. Levy SM, Guha-Chowdhury N. (1999).

18. Washington University School of Medicine, January 25, 2005.

19. Burgstahler AW, et al. (1997).

20. Warnakulasuriya S, et al. (2002).

21. Warren JJ, Levy SM. (2003); Heilman JR, et al. (1997).

22. Marier J, Rose D. (1977).

23. Nuscheler M, et al. (1996); Marier J, Rose D. (1977).

24. Marier J, Rose D. (1977).

25. J Brunelle & J Carlos (1990), J Dent. Res. (special edition)

26. A J Spencer et al. “Water Fluoridation in Australia” (1996), Community Dental Health13 (Suppl 2)