Fluoride : bad for children

India is pressing for a ban on the sale and advertising of fluoridated toothpastes to combat widespread fluorosis, caused by excess fluoride, affecting some 25 million people in 13 states.

This health problem has arisen because fluoride levels in sources of drinking water are naturally high.

The commission has warned that children under seven shouldn't use fluoridated toothpaste and that packaging for fluoridated toothpastes should specify the exact fluoride content per portion.

The commission's decision was influenced by a World Health Organization publication, Appropriate Use of Fluoride in Human Health, which suggests that children anywhere and not just in areas with high fluoridation should not use fluoride mouth rinses and should only have toothpaste portions the size of a small pea.

Part of the conclusion concerning children has to do with scientific evidence showing that toothpaste, even in small quantities, is quickly absorbed through the body.

The Indian resolutions were backed up by a message from no less cautious a body than America's assistant secretary for health of the US Public Health Service.

Dr James O. Mason said that, although an "extensive investigation" of fluoride found no evidence of a link between fluoride and cancer in humans, the report demonstrates an increase in dental fluorosis. This causes a "mottling" of tooth enamel during tooth formation in children likely to be caused by increased fluoride exposure from dental products.

In communities previously without fluoridated water, the prevalence of dental fluorosis has sextupled since the introduction of fluoride.

Mason said the PHS report urged health professionals to adopt similar policies to India, particularly with regard to children's use of toothpaste.