Recent US Government Funded Studies Link Fluoride Exposure to IQ Loss

An interview with Paul Connett, Ph.D.

Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author (s) and contributor (s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and editors of WholeFoods Magazine. Information in this interview is intended for educational and scientific purposes only. It is not intended as medical or nutritional advice for the treatment or prevention of disease. For medical advice, consult your personal health care practitioner.

Fluoride is a harmful pollutant—not a nutrient. So why are we discussing it again in a nutrition magazine? Because most people are not aware that many human studies have shown a strong link between both fetal and infant exposure to fluoride and lowered IQ in children. And it is our civic duty to inform them. For any other pollutant such evidence would have forced a ban on its use but this “protected pollutant” is still deliberately added to water in the U.S. and has been since 1945.

Your tax dollars have been paying the wages of those government workers dedicated to deceive you about the nonexistent “safety” of Fluoridation. This is not only harmful to the citizens they are paid to protect, but it is criminal! The harm has been known for decades, but the agencies ignore it and lie about it to the public. Can we let this continue? Let’s chat with Dr. Paul Connett about one of these problems: the fact that Fluoridation lowers IQ.

Paul Connett, Ph.D., Director of Fluoride Action Network

Paul Connett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN).

Dr. Paul Connett is a graduate of Cambridge University and holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Dartmouth College. From 1983-2006, Dr. Connett taught chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, where he specialized in Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology.

Over the past 36 years, his research on waste management has taken him to 49 states in the U.S., seven provinces in Canada, and 68 other countries, where he has given over 2,500 pro bono public presentations.

In 1996, Dr. Connett was persuaded by his wife Ellen to investigate the controversial practice of water fluoridation. In 2000, he was one of the founders of the Fluoride Action
Network and is the organization’s current director. In 2003, he gave an invited presentation to a panel appointed by the U.S. National Research Council, which published a landmark review of fluoride’s toxicity in 2006.

In 2010, with two other authors, James Beck, M.D., Ph.D., and Spedding Micklem, DPhil (Oxon), he published The Case Against Fluoride (Chelsea Green 2010).

Passwater: Dr. Connett, you have successfully brought this issue into the courts in an effort to inform and protect the public. How strong scientifically and legally is the evidence that Fluoridation lowers IQ? How up-to-date are these studies? Does the most recent study confirm the earlier ones?

Connett: The most recent study was published in 2020 by Canadian researchers Till et al. It is one of four major studies published since 2017 (Bashash, 2017 & 2018; Green, 2019; and Till 2020) that have been funded by the NIEHS (the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). These studies have been extremely rigorous, controlling for many confounding variables with both exposure and outcome based on double blind measurements in individual children or mother-offspring pairs.

These 4 studies, which we will discuss in more detail later, are the culmination of 68 human studies (largely from China but a few from India, Iran and Mexico) in children that date back to the early 1990s. In fact, my involvement in this issue began in 1996, at about the time the first two Chinese IQ studies were published in English (Li et al., 1995) and (Zhao et al., 1996) and I have followed this matter very closely ever since.

The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) has kept track of these studies and we have also had many of the studies published in Chinese journals translated into English.

While many of the early studies are fairly weak methodologically, they are highly consistent in their findings, which was underlined in a meta-analysis performed by researchers at Harvard in 2012 (Choi et al, 2012).

Passwater: Good. Please tell us about the Harvard Meta-analysis.

Connett: Sure. The Harvard meta-analysis (Choi et al, 2012) was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP). This journal is sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and this meta-analysis helped put this subject on the radar of many American researchers for the first time.

Choi et al found that of 27 studies (in which the authors compared the IQ of children in high-fluoride versus low-fluoride villages), 26 showed a lowering of IQ. This despite the fact that these studies were conducted by many different research teams across widely differing areas of China (and Iran). The average IQ loss over all 27 studies was 7 IQ points and the average water concentration in the high-fluoride villages was less than 4 ppm. 4 ppm is the current maximum contaminant level (MCL) in the U.S.

To put 7 IQ points into perspective, in performing risk assessments the EPA uses a loss of just one IQ point as an end point of concern. It has been estimated that a loss of one IQ point represents a loss of $18,000 in lifetime earnings (Bellinger, 2012). But loss of IQ is even more significant on a population basis. If there is a shift downwards of 5 IQ points across a whole population (and water fluoridation is a practice designed to reach the whole population) it will halve the number of very bright children (IQ > 130) and increase by nearly 60% the number of children needing institutional support (IQ < 70). The latter has huge social consequences and the former a huge economic impact with respect to competing in a global economy.

Passwater: Wow! The impact of 7 IQ points catches me by surprise, and I bet it surprises many others. That is very significant and must be stopped! What about the Mother-Offspring studies?

Connett: The Mother-Offspring studies (2017-2020) were a dramatic change in the quality of these IQ studies occurred in 2017. Three mother-offspring studies and an infant study funded by U.S. agencies were published (Bashash 2017, 2018; Green, 2019; and Till 2020). These four studies are considered by many to be the most important human neurotoxicity studies conducted to date. I will describe each in turn.

Bashash, 2017
This study was performed in Mexico City using the ELEMENT cohort and appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The methodology was very rigorous. The authors controlled for a large number of confounding variables and used double-blind individual measurements of both fluoride exposure to the mother and the cognitive impact on the offspring at 4 and 6-12 years of age.

The fluoride exposure to the mother was measured in their urine. This is important because urine levels give a measure of total exposure to fluoride regardless of source. Mexico fluoridates its salt, not its water. Measuring fluoride in the mothers’ urine gives us a way of comparing exposures with other countries regardless of the actual source of the fluoride.

Analysis of this data has shown a loss of about 4 IQ points in offspring for an increase of 1 mg/liter of fluoride in mother’s urine. The range of mother’s urine levels in these studies is typical of fluoridated countries, including Canada and NZ.

Bashash, 2018
In 2018, Bashash performed a second analysis on the same cohort and found that some symptoms of ADHD increased as the level of fluoride in the mother’s urine increased.

Green, 2019
This study, also funded by the NIEHS, was performed in Canada (using the MIREC cohort) and essentially replicated the findings of the Bashash study with one major difference: the IQ was significantly lowered in the male offspring but not in the females. It is not unknown for there to be sex differences in mental development and it is plausible that boys are more sensitive to fluoride’s impact on the brain during fetal development while girls are more sensitive to postnatal exposure, i.e., during infancy.

This study was published in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) Pediatrics and appeared with an editorial and companion article by David Bellinger, a well-known expert on lead’s neurotoxicity, as well as an important  online conversation between two of the editors.

Till, 2020
Another Canadian study published in 2020 by Till et al. found that bottle-fed children in fluoridated communities had lower IQs (up to 9 IQ points) than bottle-fed children in non-fluoridated communities.

This finding reflects the fact that the level of fluoride in mothers’ milk is extremely low (0.004 ppm, NRC, 2006 p.40, www.nap.edu/read/11571/chapter/4?term=40#40). When parents bottle-feed their children with formula made up with fluoridated tap water, they exceed the fluoride exposure a baby would get from mothers’ milk by a factor of about 200 (0.7 – 1.2 ppm versus 0.004 ppm). Put another way, mothers’ milk protects the infant from fluoride but using fluoridated water in formula removes that protection.

It is remarkable that we have high quality studies that have found neurological harm at the doses actually experienced in fluoridated communities. Normally we are usually forced to use much higher doses to tease out an effect which may only be impacting a small percentage of the children in a large population. Finding these effects in a total sample size of 800 children (Bashash and Green combined) means fluoride must be impacting the average child and we can thus expect far greater damage to the more vulnerable children.

Passwater: Yet the Agencies claim no documented risks from fluoridation, while they hide or downplay recent human studies that found thyroid impairment (Peckham, 2015 & Malin, 2018), increased risk of ADHD (Riddell, 2019 / Bashash, 2018 / Malin, 2015), and sleeping disorders (Cunningham, 2021 / Malin 2019). We plan to talk about them in Part 2.

Connett: I urge anyone who has any doubts about the urgency of this matter to read the Op-ed article by Drs. Linda Birnbaum (former head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences), Bruce Lanphear, and Christine Till. The latter two are key authors of two of the neurotoxic studies identified earlier (Green, 2019 and Till 2020).

Passwater: Is it ethical to poison the water supply with a pollutant that interferes with the biochemistry of the population?

Connett: Absolutely not, and the early promoters of this practice should have known this in 1945 when the first trials began in the U.S. They knew then that one of the outcomes of children swallowing fluoride would be an increase in the prevalence of dental fluorosis—a discoloration and mottling of the teeth. This condition was known to be a systemic effect and thus caused by some biochemical mechanism involved during the formation of the tooth enamel—most likely an interference with enzymes. The gamble they took when the U.S. Public Health Service endorsed water fluoridation in 1950 (with very little research on possible side effects) was that the teeth would be the only tissue impacted by fluoride. From a biochemical perspective that was highly unlikely. Moreover, such a gamble should not have been taken by the government. Individuals should be given a choice in what medicines they take into their bodies. To compound the ethics of this problem, when you administer a drug via the water supply, you have no control of the dose each individual receives.

Passwater: Relatively little was understood about pollutant effects on human biochemistry in those days. The government was still urging people in Nevada to get up early and watch the airborne atomic bomb tests as the radioactive clouds drifted over them and caused cancer. (Assoc. Press Sep14 & 15, 1982; CBS Television Sep. 13, 1982). From 1951 until 1962. Over 100 announced above ground atomic denotations were conducted in Yucca Flats, Nevada. A 1958 U. S. Government film highlighted the “absolute Safety” of atomic weapons testing. “There is no danger.” The residents of St. George, Utah; Washington, Utah; and Bunkerville, Nevada developed astronomically high cancer rates. They were betrayed by their government health officials. Fortunately, above-ground atomic tasting was halted in September 1963.

Government agencies allowed lead to pollute gasoline and paint instead of protecting us. Lead was known to be a neurotoxin that affects all parts of the brain and was called a malicious and insidious creeping poison in 1922 by scientists who warned it should not be used in gasoline.

Leaded gasoline began widespread usage in 1923. The Public Health Service held a conference on the safety of leaded gasoline in 1925, but went on to continue to allow it. Lead was banned from use in residential paint in 1978 and the Environmental Protection Agency began to phase it out in the 1970s. On January 1, 1996, leaded gasoline was banned by the Clean Air Act for use in new vehicles other than aircraft, racing cars, farm equipment, and marine engines. It wasn’t due primarily to a direct health concern from the lead, but to air pollution concerns resulting from leaded gasoline fouling up catalytic converters in cars that reduce air pollution.

It’s 2021 now, shouldn’t the government agencies already have discontinued this fluoride poisoning based on these studies, instead of forcing you to take them to court to do their job?

Connett: Certainly. In fact, there have been many occasions when this practice should have been discontinued, as many other countries have done. Currently, 97% of the European population does not drink fluoridated water. One time the practice should have been halted in the U.S. was when the CDC Oral Health Division acknowledged in 1999 that they had got the mechanism of fluoride’s supposed dental benefit wrong. They said they used to think the baby should be exposed to fluoride before their teeth had erupted, but now they believe that the benefit is largely topical, i.e., occurs with direct contact with fluoride on the teeth, after they have erupted. At this point the CDC should have switched to advocating topical treatments like fluoridated toothpaste as the preferred delivery system.

Incredibly, despite the quality and consistency of these IQ studies, no health agency or professional body has issued warnings to pregnant women or parents who bottle-feed their babies to avoid fluoride. Nor has the mainstream media been very helpful—they have largely ignored these important studies. We have done our best to do so but our reach is limited. Fortunately, two of the authors of the key IQ studies (Bruce Lanphear and Christine Till) along with Dr. Linda Birnbaum, the former head of the NIEHS, have issued a very strong warning in the form of an editorial in Environmental Health News. We are urging our supporters to get this warning into the hands of any scientist, doctor, public health official, regulator or representative they know. Our message is simple but incredibly important:

“There is no benefit to the fetus or infant before their teeth have erupted from exposure to fluoride, but even if there were, damage to a tooth can be repaired, damage to the brain cannot. Loss of IQ has lifelong consequences.”

Passwater: How is your legal action going?

Connett: We are suing the EPA in Federal court under provisions in TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act). The beauty of this trial is that it gives us a level playing field as far as the science is concerned. The court is not obliged to give any deference to the authority of the EPA. The court will make its judgment based upon which side the judge believes presents the strongest scientific case. In this respect it is interesting that the EPA did not use experts within its own ranks but instead used an industry-friendly consulting group called Environ (who have defended the “safety” of dioxins, PFAS and all sorts of toxic chemicals for their clients). The Environ scientists did their best to muddy the waters, but it is clear that the judge is following the studies of fluoride’s neurotoxicity very closely and will not easily be fooled. 

Passwater: Well, a lot of money is at stake. If the waste products from several industries including the fertilizer industry—which fluoride is—is classified as a harmful pollutant once again, as it was in the early 1940s, then it could cost that industry billions. What is the next step?

Connett: Running parallel with our court case, the U.S. National Toxicology Program (at our request in 2016) has been doing a systematic review of fluoride’s neurotoxicity. This has gone through two drafts and has had two peer reviews by a committee appointed by NASEM (National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine).

The first two drafts of the NTP monograph concluded that fluoride should be considered to pose a “presumed neurotoxic hazard” for children. This is the second highest classification of hazard for the NTP. The four levels are: known, presumed, suspected, or non-classifiable. Even though the second peer review by NASEM did not challenge this classification by the NTP, it did recommend that the NTP explain the underpinnings of this conclusion more clearly to the public. On February 9, NTP announced it would not be reaching conclusions about hazard but simply provide a report the “State of the Science.”

This state of the science review—which is already the most comprehensive review of fluoride’s neurotoxicity ever performed—should provide an excellent starting point for a formal health risk assessment. In an ideal world, we would expect this to be done by the EPA—that is their job. However, we have grown accustomed to the EPA not doing their job on this pollutant (they seem to prefer regulating industrial-pollutants not government-sanctioned pollutants). Probably the best we can expect—at least in the short term—is for a risk assessment to be published by an independent research team. Philippe Grandjean, along with several of the authors of the U.S. agency-funded IQ studies, has already produced such a risk assessment, titled: A Benchmark Dose Analysis for Maternal Pregnancy Urine-Fluoride and IQ in Children. It is currently being considered for publication. The safe reference dose (RfD) they derived from their analysis would be greatly exceeded by nearly all children living in fluoridated communities.

Passwater: Well, these government agencies tend to ignore the courts and continue their harmful ways with a “so what are you going to do about it” attitude.

Connett: If we get a favorable ruling from the judge, we can use that to lobby state governments to pass legislation against this practice (even if the EPA drags its feet on the matter) and especially in those 12 states in which the practice is mandatory (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio and South Dakota)—see details at fluoridealert.org. As is often the case in environmental matters, once a few states act independently it forces the Federal government to act (as in the case of lead).

We also believe that a favorable court ruling will have strong influence on fluoridating countries outside the U.S. (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and some South American countries.) This will be particularly important ruling for both the UK and NZ, since both countries are considering (incredibly) making fluoridation mandatory.

Passwater: Well, Dr. Connett you certainly have taken Action Against Fluoridation, but there is more to tell. Let’s consider several more reasons why Fluoridation should be banned in the next column. In the meantime, readers can find additional information on your website at www.fluoridealert.org.