Even if your drinking water isn't fluoridated (and much of the UK's isn't), fluoride resides in all sorts of unlikely places. Indeed, the concentration in outer enamel of the teeth of 6- to 10-year-olds sometimes reaches 10,000 ppm (J Fluoride, 1986; 3: 147). In America, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is calling for manufacturers to list a product's fluoride content (Wall St Journal, December 21, 1998, p B1).
Here's how to avoid the hidden sources:
* Send your child to school with bottled water. School drinking water can add additional fluoride to water. In the US, in addition to water fluoridated to about 1 ppm, many schools have levels of 5 ppm (Fluoride, 1994; 27: 32-6).
* Avoid medicine whenever possible. Fluoride is contained in many over-the-counter and prescribed medicines, such as Prozac and vaccines.
* Choose dental products with care. Fluoride is contained in most commercial toothpaste and tooth-hygiene products, even dental floss. Exceptions include Kingfisher's, Green People, Weleda, Neways and others on healthfood shop shelves. Always read the label.
* Eat organically to avoid fluoride from pesticides and fertilisers.
* Keep your child away from constant exposure to heavy traffic. Fluoride is present in engine solvents, fuels and auto exhausts.
* Check food labels. Fast foods and even 'health foods' can contain fluoride (J Fluoride, 1986; 3: 152).
* Have your child play near grass and trees. Some 155,000 tons of fluoride are released annually into the air to be circulated worldwide by the wind. Airborne sulphur dioxide worsens fluoride-caused problems (Fluoride, 1996; 29: 7-12). We even inhale it in air that is humidified with fluoridated water.
* Eat organic fish. Some 500,000 tons a year go into fresh waters and the sea, and about 143,000 tons are pumped yearly into drinking water supplies (Earth Island J, 1998; Spring: 38-41).
* Don't let your child live on canned beverages. Western teens now drink twice as much soda as milk, a reverse of figures noted 20 years ago. Many young men between 13 and 18 drink three or more cans a day, and 10 per cent drink seven or more cans a day. Among 13- to 18-year-old girls, the average intake is more than two cans a day, with 10 per cent guzzling more than 5 a day (Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1998).
* A typical soft drink contains 200-300 mg of phosphate, a buffer to prevent the acidity of the drink from dissolving the teeth. But phosphates and sulphates in food and soft drinks increase the absorption of fluorides (Stookey et al. 1964; Abstracts from the US Public Health Service Toxicological Profile on Fluorides).
Ordinarily, aluminium cannot penetrate the blood-brain barrier. However, fluoridated water is an excellent medium for allowing aluminium to pass into the brain, making the aluminium more bio-available (Toxic Metal Syndrome, New York: Avery Publishing Group, p xiv).
After six months of storage in aluminium cans, the concentration of aluminium in the drink may reach 6000 ppm (aCRES-usa, 1996; April).
* Avoid non-organic store-bought fruit juices and non-organic fruit. Forty-three ready-to-drink fruit juices and frozen concentrates reconstituted with distilled water were tested for fluoride ion concentration; 42 per cent contained more than 1 ppm (J Am Dent Assoc, 1996; 127: 895-902). 'Pure' grape juices contained up to 6.8 ppm, probably from contamination by the insecticide cryolite. Even just washing grapes before eating yields measurable amounts of fluoride (J Publ Health Dent, 1991; 16: 1). Fluoride makes fruit juice particularly corrosive; it can destroy enamel on teeth if it contains too much fluoride, reports the Academy of General Dentistry (J Pediatr Dent, 1991; 16: 1).
Breastfeed your baby as long as possible and be wary of formula. In 1979, formula manufacturers reduced fluoride in their products to a 'low' level. But years later, one researcher reported a 2.8-fold increase in risk of fluorosis associated with early cessation of breastfeeding (Caries Res, 1993; 27: 71-7). The mother's body appears to filter some fluoride out before nourishing her baby. One set of researchers reported a 3.3-fold increase in fluorosis risk with infant formula, and a sevenfold increase in risk with soy-based infant formula (Am J Epidemiol, 1994; 140: 451-71).