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Fluoride Linked To Anemia and Pre-Term Birth

Forgive me if I’m out of the loop but I have always bought the dentistry party line that fluoride in the water is one of the big reasons Americans’ teeth are so big and shiny and healthy.

But I just read this study and new vistas of controversy opened up before me. This time it’s about tap water and pregnancy.

A study of 205 women in India, showed that fluoride avoidance during pregnancy reduced anemia and decreased pre-term births. The study is published in this month’s issue of Current Science.

In the study, half of the women made no changes to their diet, the other half were instructed to avoid fluoride in water, food and other sources. Both groups were given iron and folic acid. Results showed that anemia was reduced and pre-term babies were fewer in the fluoride-avoidance group as compared to the control. According to the researchers fluoride can prohibit proper nutrient absorption in the stomach.

Hmmm. Fluoride is not only considered OK in pregnancy, it’s often recommended that pregnant women make sure they get enough. Babycenter advises that pregnant women get their fluoride, as it “builds bones and fights cavities.”

But in 2009 State University of New York researchers found more premature births in fluoridated than non-fluoridated upstate New York communities. There was a widely accepted 2006 report from the American Dental Association about the risks of excessive amounts of fluoride given to infants via water used in formula. Some environmental groups are concerned with the effects of fluoride in water, or that fluoride levels can be higher than optimal. But claims that the amount of fluoride in our drinking water is enough to be of risk have been questioned.

Unsure what to make of all this, I turned to the Environmental Working Group. This trustworthy resource offers advice for drinking water in pregnancy:

“It’s important for pregnant women to drink plenty of water. Use a reverse osmosis system or carbon filter pitcher to reduce your exposure to impurities such as chlorine, perchlorate and lead. Don’t drink bottled water, which costs more and isn’t necessarily better. If you’re out and about, use a stainless steel, glass or BPA-free plastic reusable container. Mix infant formula with fluoride-free water. Get EWG’s Safe Drinking Water Guide.

There was nothing in there specifically about fluoride and pregnancy which gives me great reassurance. The Complete Organic Pregnancy has lots on the benefits of filtered water but no mention of fluoride toxicity, and that book is quite rigorous when it comes to chemicals. Dr. Michael Broder writes in The Panic Free Pregnancy that the amount of fluoride in water is too low to be toxic. He expresses more concern about well water than tap water, which he says is just fine in pregnancy.

I’ve been drinking fluoridated water since I was a fetus. Both my kids drink it daily. It’ll be interesting to see if further research is done in this area. For now, my Brita-filtered tap water will be just fine.

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