To filter or not to filter, that is the question. Did you know that 97% of the western Europe does not fluoridate the water, why? How does chronic drinking of tap water affect our bodies? Are there safe amounts of fluoride intake or is even the smallest amount bad for us? I did some quick research to answer some of my questions.
Let us start with the reason why we starting adding fluoride to tap water in the first place. Fluoride research began in 1901 when Frederick McKay discovered a community in Colorado with badly stained teeth. McKay's discovery sparked a 30 year research venture. Around 90 percent of the children born in the town had signs of the brown stains. What he discovered was that children were at higher risk of having the brown stains and that those that had the brown stains were more resistant to tooth decay. He then moved to studying more stained teeth cases in Oakley, Idaho, were a new pipeline had been placed. McKay advised the town to stop using the new spring water, and within a few years there were no cases of children with brown stains. The spring water was then examined and was found to have high levels of fluoride. After more research was completed, McKay realized that fluoride could be added to drinking water, in safe amounts, to help prevent tooth decay. In 1945, Grand Rapids became the first city in the world to fluoridate its drinking water. (National Institution of Dental and Craniofacial Research, The Story of Fluoridation). It is not just in tap water now days, bottled water products contain fluoride as well. Only if the product is labeled as de-ionized, purified, demineralized, or distilled will the product contain less amounts of fluoride than the average bottled water product. (Center For Disease Control and Prevention, Bottled Water).
The fluoridation of water can help protect teeth in two ways, it can help make children's teeth less susceptible to cavities during the tooth forming years and protect adult teeth throughout life (National Institution of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Water Fluoridation). "Community water fluoridation is the easiest, safest, and most effective way to minimize tooth decay" (Colorado Fluoride Facts, Know The Facts.) Water Fluoridation can help tooth decay prevention for mass amounts of people in an cost effective manner.
Now that we understand the dental benefits of fluoride in our drinking water, lets look at how fluoride affects the rest of our body. In 1993, National Research Council stated in a report that “Crippling skeletal fluorosis might occur in people who have ingested 10-20 mg of fluoride per day for 10-20 years.” Skeletal fluorosis is a bone disease caused by drinking large amounts of fluoride through water. Skeletal fluorosis can cause pain and crippling damage to major joints. "Age, sex, calcium intake in the diet, dose and duration of fluoride intake and renal efficiency in fluoride handling are the factors which influence the outcome" (NCBI, Skeletal Fluorosis in humans: a review of recent progress in the understanding of the disease). In 2003, Another study from China found that a daily dose of 9 to 12 mg/day caused crippling skeletal fluorosis. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and China Medical University combined 27 studies that had strong indications that fluoride may adversely affect cognitive development in children. Children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas (Harvard School of Public Health, Impact of fluoride on neurological development in children).
It seems that there really has not been enough studies to conclude how chronic drinking of fluoridated water effects the rest of our bodies. Can drinking fluoridated water cause cancer? National Cancer Institute says that studies so far have shown no connection (National Cancer Institute, Fluoridation Water). However, Health.gov said that "There have been over 50 human epidemiology studies of the relationship between water fluoridation and cancer." Some epidemiological studies showed that the specific bone fractures were higher in communities with either naturally high or adjusted fluoride levels, but they are not sure how closely linked the fluoride intake is to bone fractures (Health.gov, Major Findings). There are also not enough studies to conclude how drinking tap water affects the health of your heart (American Heart Association, Minerals, Inorganic Substances). So the truth is that there are still too many grey areas to make any definite decisions.
In conclusion? I would suggest reading the studies and weighing the benefits and risks for yourself. I concluded that fluoridation of water can be helpful in preventing dental decay for mass amounts of people, but that we are not completely sure how it is affecting the rest of our body. I also concluded that fluoride is helpful in toothpaste or in a topical at the dentist, but I am not personally sold on chronically ingesting fluoride from drinking tap water. Should we have the choice to choose what goes into our water? Here is a list of countries that have chosen not to fluoridate the water and their reasons: http://fluoridealert.org/content/europe-statements/
National Institution of Dental and Craniofacial Research
The Story of Fluoridation: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/Fluoride/TheStoryofFluoridation.htm
Water Fluoridation: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/DataStatistics/FindDataByTopic/WaterFluoridation/
Fluoride And Health: https://fluoridealert.org/issues/health/
Esitmated "Theshold" Doses For Skeletal Flourosis://fluoridealert.org/studies/skeletal_fluorosis04_/