Fluoride As a Neurotoxin: How It Harms Your Brain

Edited and medically reviewed by Patrick Alban, DC | Written by Deane Alban

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Fluoride is a trace mineral that, in sufficient quantity, is harmful to mental health. Consider these reasons to avoid fluoridated water and toothpaste.

Fluoride is a trace mineral that naturally occurs in the earth’s crust and in water.

About 6% of the world’s population, including about 75% of the US, receive artificially fluoridated water.

Fluoride added to water and toothpaste is a public health measure thought to prevent dental decay and build healthy teeth.

But artificially adding fluoride to drinking water is a controversial practice.

The US Centers for Disease Control call the fluoridation of water “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.” (1)

On the other hand, PubChem, a National Institutes of Health’s chemistry database, lists fluoride as highly toxic. (2)

There’s reason to doubt that fluoridated water prevents tooth decay since people in pro-fluoride countries don’t have healthier teeth than the rest of the world.

Many countries have actually experienced a substantial decline in cavities without the use of fluoride. (3)

But there’s little debate about what fluoride, a known neurotoxin, does to your brain.

Here are some of the best reasons to consider avoiding added fluoride for the sake of your mental health.

1. Fluoride Is a Developmental Neurotoxin

A neurotoxin is a substance that’s poisonous or destructive to the tissues in the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system.

A developmental neurotoxin is one that affects the brain during the most susceptible stages of life — before birth and during early childhood.

A systematic review of studies published in The Lancet, one of the most prestigious and highly regarded medical journals, recommended that fluoride be classified as a developmental neurotoxin along with lead, mercury, arsenic, PCBs, and toluene. (4)

" Fluoridated water leaches lead and greatly increases the amount in potable water, by up to 9-fold.

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Study authors believe that there is a “pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity” and fluoride is a contributor.

Developmental neurotoxins are linked to increases in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, loss of IQ points, disruptive behavior, and other cognitive impairments.

There’s also a link between increases in autism and chronic fluoride exposure. (5)

2. The Ingestion of Fluoride Lowers IQ in Children

Harvard School of Public Health and China Medical University in Shenyang, China performed a joint analysis of 27 studies on the effects of fluoride.

Researchers found a strong correlation between fluoride and adverse effects on brain development. (6)

Children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those living in low-fluoride areas.

This is not the only study that supports these findings.

To date, more than 70 studies have linked fluoride to reduced IQ in both children and adults.

You can find a list of these studies on the Fluoride Action Network, a registered non-profit organization.

3. Fluoride Facilitates the Entry of Aluminum Into the Brain

In the 1970s, autopsies revealed that Alzheimer’s patients had higher than normal concentrations of neurotoxic aluminum in their brains.

It’s now understood that fluoride may play a role in the aluminum-Alzheimer’s connection.

The blood-brain barrier is a semipermeable membrane designed to keep foreign substances — like fluoride and aluminum — out of the brain.

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When aluminum comes into contact with fluoride, it hitches a ride into the brain as aluminum fluoride, bypassing the blood-brain barrier.

The presence of aluminum fluoride in the brain has been linked to Alzheimer’s. (7)

4. Fluoridated Drinking Water Increases Risk of Hypothyroidism

Fluoride, especially when added to drinking water, nearly doubles the risk of developing hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). (8)

Fluoride binds with iodine receptors in the thyroid, displacing iodine.

And when there isn’t adequate iodine available, the thyroid can’t synthesize thyroid hormones. (9)

That is bad news for your brain.

Brain fog, memory loss, lack of focus, depression, anxiety, and other cognitive and mental health issues are some of the most problematic side effects of thyroid disorders.

5. Fluoride Causes Nervous System Degeneration

Once fluoride crosses the blood-brain barrier, it causes degeneration to certain parts of the brain, specifically the hippocampus, neocortex, and cerebellum. (10)

The hippocampus is considered the seat of memory and is critical for learning, emotional regulation, and shutting off the stress response.

The neocortex is considered the most evolved area of the brain; it’s where the brain processes sensory perception, conscious thought, and language skills.

The cerebellum is responsible for coordination and balance.

The damage from fluoride doesn’t stop at your brain; it continues on to the spinal cord and sciatic nerve.

6. Fluoride Impairs Pineal Gland Function

The pineal gland is a pea-sized structure in the brain where melatonin is produced.

Melatonin is known mainly as a sleep hormone, but it’s much more than that.

Melatonin is a potent antioxidant that is especially protective of the brain.

It can offset the damage of serious brain disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. (11)

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Melatonin has been shown to work at least as well as antidepressant medications and is particularly useful for a certain kind of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (12, 13)

The pineal gland is prone to accumulating deposits in a process known as calcification.

Calcification, in spite of the name, isn’t always caused by calcium.

These deposits can be caused by other minerals, including fluoride, which is found in strikingly high concentrations in the pineal gland. (14, 15)

This affects melatonin production, contributing to insomnia, depression, and accelerated brain aging. (16)

Pineal gland calcification is also thought to be linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s. (17)

7. Fluoridated Water Leaches Lead From Pipes and Faucets

If you are of a certain age, you may remember when paint, gasoline, and water pipes regularly contained lead.

Lead is another neurotoxin that posed a serious health threat, leading to a series of bans in the US.

Lead has been banned from paint since 1978, phased out of gasoline in the 1990s, and outlawed in the manufacture of water pipes since 1986. (18, 19, 20)

But if you live in a house built before 1986, you may still have lead water pipes.

Even brass or chrome-plated faucets can contain some lead. (21)

If you have fluoridated water coming through lead pipes and chrome faucets, you have the “perfect neurotoxin storm.”

Why? Fluoridated water leaches lead and greatly increases the amount in your water, by up to 9-fold. (22)

Young brains are most at risk, but brains of all ages can suffer from lead exposure manifesting as memory loss, mood disorders, lower IQ, and learning disabilities. (23, 24)

8. Attention Disorders Are Linked to Fluoride

Rates of attention disorders skyrocketed about the same time that fluoridation of water supplies was on the rise in the United States.

This may not be a coincidence since researchers have found a correlation between water fluoridation and ADHD. (25)

States with the largest number of ADHD cases also have the greatest proportion of people drinking fluoridated water.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control, 72% of the US population receives fluoridated water, but the numbers vary greatly by state. (26)

If you live in Washington, DC, the chances of fluoridated water coming out of your tap are 100%.

States with the lowest rates of fluoridation are Hawaii at 11% and New Jersey at 15%.

9. Fluoride Is Found in Antidepressants

If you are one of the millions of people taking Prozac, you may have noticed that the generic name for Prozac is fluoxetine.

It’s not a coincidence that the name sounds a lot like fluoride.

Some of the most commonly prescribed drugs contain significant amounts of fluoride, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.

This is disturbing since there’s evidence that fluoride can cause depression and anxiety. (27)

Besides Prozac, other antidepressants that contain fluoride include Paxil, Celexa, and Lexapro. (28, 29)

If you currently take one of these medications, you may want to discuss switching to a fluoride-free antidepressant or try some natural ways to relieve depression instead.

But do not stop taking any medication before talking to your health care professional.

How to Avoid Added Fluoride

For most of us, the main sources of fluoride are toothpaste and drinking water.

It’s easy to find fluoride-free toothpaste.

Many “natural” personal care companies like Tom’s of Maine, Jason’s, Burt’s Bees, Nature’s Gate, and Kiss My Face carry fluoride-free toothpaste.

But avoiding fluoride in your drinking water is a bit more complicated.

The first question to answer is …

Does Your Drinking Water Contain Fluoride?

Some countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and Brazil, add fluoride to much of their public water supply.

If you live in one of these countries, you may be surprised to learn that most of the world does not fluoridate its water.

It’s estimated that only about 6% of the world’s population drinks intentionally fluoridated water. (30)

On the other hand, many parts of the world have groundwater with naturally high fluoride concentrations that can reach dangerous levels.

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These areas are known as “fluoride belts” and include parts of Africa, China, India, and the Middle East.

People who live in these areas are at risk for dental fluorosis, which stains and pits teeth, and skeletal fluorosis, a crippling bone disease.

If you live in the US, you can easily determine if your water is fluoridated at the Centers for Disease Control’s interactive webpage My Water’s Fluoride.

Or you can contact your local water department directly, since this information is required by law to be available to the public.

If you have a well, you can download the government report Quality of Water from Domestic Wells to check whether fluoride levels are high in your area.

Get a Fluoride-Reducing Water Filter

Whether your water is fluoridated or naturally high in fluorides, you can filter fluoride from your water.

But be aware that very few water filters reliably remove fluoride.

Some claim “fluoride reduction” as a feature but, in fact, remove negligible amounts.

If a filter does not specifically state that it removes fluoride, assume it doesn’t.

Fluoride As a Neurotoxin: Take the Next Step

Fluoride is a toxic substance often added to toothpaste and water supplies with the intent of building healthy teeth.

However, fluoride is not necessary for healthy teeth and most countries do not add fluoride to their water supplies.

In fact, fluoride is a known neurotoxin that directly, and indirectly, affects the health and function of your brain.

Fortunately, it’s not all that difficult to avoid.

Use fluoride-free toothpaste and get a filter that removes fluoride from your drinking water.

To further safeguard your brain against neurotoxicity, consider taking supplements that are neuroprotective.