Safety l Fluoridation Facts 63 The report, Health Effects of Water Fluoridation: An Evidence Review, issued in 2015 by the Ireland Health Research Board noted,15 “There was only one study carried out in a non-endemic or CWF area (like Ireland) that examined fluoride and IQ. This was a prospective cohort study (whose design is appropriate to infer causality) in New Zealand. The study concluded that there was no evidence of a detrimental effect on IQ as a result of exposure to CWF (community water fluoridation).”15 In 2014, a scientific review, Health effects of water fluoridation: A review of the scientific evidence,18 commissioned by the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and the President of the Royal Society of New Zealand concluded: “There is no convincing evidence of neurological effects at fluoride concentrations achieved by CWF.”18 At the request of the European Commission, the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) conducted a critical review20 of any new evidence on the hazard profile, health effects, and human exposure to fluoride and the fluoridating agents of drinking water. Their report of May 2011 reviewed animal and human studies concluding that “there is not enough evidence to conclude that fluoride in drinking water at concentrations permitted in the EU may impair the IQ of children. SCHER also agreed that a biological plausibility for the link between fluoridated water and IQ has not been established.”20 As noted in the preceding paragraphs, at least three systematic reviews10,15,18 indicated that there was only one high-quality prospective cohort study that addressed the issue of IQ. Published in 2014, a study146 conducted in New Zealand followed a group of more than 1,000 people born in the early 1970s and measured childhood IQ at the ages of 7, 9, 11 and 13 years and adult IQ at the age of 38 years. Early life exposure to fluoride from a variety of sources was recorded and adjustments were made for factors potentially influencing IQ. Childhood factors associated with IQ variation included socio-economic status of parents, birth weight and breastfeeding, as well as secondary and tertiary educational achievement, which is associated with adult IQ. This detailed study revealed no evidence that exposure to water fluoridation in New Zealand affects neurological development or IQ. (Recommended levels of fluoride used in New Zealand’s fluoridation program range from 0.7 mg/L to 1.0 mg/L.)146 Those opposed to water fluoridation have promoted studies that reportedly show fluoridation causes lower intelligence (IQ) in children. The studies cited are often from China, Mexico, India or Iran where social, nutritional and environmental conditions are significantly different from those in the United States. The vast majority of these studies have not been published in peer-reviewed English language journals. The consensus of those who have reviewed these studies is that the quality of these studies does not stand up to scientific scrutiny. The studies are of low quality, have a high risk of bias and use a study design unsuited to prove or disprove theories. They take no or little account of other factors that are known to cause a lowering of IQ (also called confounders) such as nutritional status, socioeconomic status, iodine deficiency and consumption of other harmful elements in ground water (arsenic or lead). At the request of the U.S. EPA, a report on fluoride in drinking water issued in 2006 by the National Research Council9 noted that the significance of the Chinese studies reviewed was “uncertain.” “Most of the papers were brief reports and omitted important procedural details…Most of the studies did not indicate whether the IQ tests were administered in a blinded manner. Some of the effects noted in the studies could have been due to stress induced by the testing conditions. Without detailed information about the testing conditions and the tests themselves, the committee was unable to assess the strength of the studies.”9 In England in 2009, the South Central Strategic Health Authority requested an independent critical appraisal of 19 papers and one abstract that reported an association between fluoride in drinking water and IQ in countries outside England. The appraisal147 noted that the study design and methods used by many of the researchers in these studies had serious limitations. The researchers also exhibited a lack of a thorough consideration of confounding factors as a source of bias in the results. From these studies alone, it was “uncertain how fluoride was responsible for any impairment in intellectual development.” Significant differences were noted in conditions between the communities studied and conditions in England. For example, some studies noted high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water and exposure to fluoride from other sources including the practice of burning high fluoride coal to heat poorly ventilated homes in China. Additionally, in many cases, there were stark differences in other environmental conditions and socioeconomic characteristics.147
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