Drinking Fluoride-Treated Water During Pregnancy Could Lower Your Child's IQ, Study Finds
Drinking water treated with fluoride during pregnancy may lead to lower IQs in children, a controversial new study has found.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many adults and children have seen the dental health benefits of drinking water treated with fluoride over the past 70 years, including stronger teeth and 25 percent fewer cavities. Currently, more than 66 percent of Americans receive fluoride-treated water.
But according to researchers at York University in Toronto, the higher the concentration of fluoride present in a mother-to-be's urine, the lower her male child's IQ score.
For the study, which was published this week in JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers tracked 512 mothers, measuring their fluoride exposure by comparing how much was in their community's drinking water, how much tap water and tea the mothers drank, and the amount of fluoride in their urine throughout their pregnancies. Their children received an IQ test between ages three and four.
The researchers found that for every increase of 1 milligram per liter concentration of fluoride in a mother's urine, the child's IQ score dropped 3.7 points. Male children saw a 4.5-point lower IQ score for each 1 milligram per liter, while there was no significant link when it came to female children, though the researchers could not point to why.
"At a population level, that's a big shift. That translates to millions of IQ levels lost," study author Christine Till, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at York University in Toronto, told CNN.
The results appear to back up the findings of the few previous studies showing an association between increased fluoride exposure and reduced IQ in children, though this is the first study that looked at populations receiving 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of drinking water, CNN reported, which is what the U.S. Public Health Service has deemed the optimal ratio.
Jama Pediatrics editor in chief Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician, added an editor's note saying the decision to publish this latest article was "not easy" and it had been subjected to "additional scrutiny for its methods and the presentation of its findings."
The researchers acknowledged the study wasn't without limitations. They did not measure fluoride exposure for the children after they were born, nor could they have accounted for amounts of fluoride consumed just before samples were taken.
Other experts called into question weaknesses in data collection and measurement, and expressed doubt regarding the gender differences in the findings.
"Whilst the authors are just reporting what they found, I find these sex differences difficult to explain. With a neurotoxicant you might expect both sexes to be affected," Alastair Hay, a professor emeritus of environmental toxicology at the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study, told the Daily Mail.
Groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics also warned against altering public health policy based on this study before its results have been replicated.
"I still stand by the weight of the best available evidence, from 70 years of study, that community water fluoridation is safe and effective," Brittany Seymour, a dentist representing the American Dental Association, told The Washington Post. "If we're able to replicate findings and continue to see outcomes, that would compel us to revisit our recommendation. We're just not there yet."
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Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria was likely responsible for more than 300 elephant deaths in Botswana this year, the country's wildlife department announced on Monday.
How Did Cyanobacteria Poison the Elephants?<p>Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Some cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins.</p><p>The cyanobacteria "was growing in pans" or watering holes, the principal veterinary officer of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben, told reporters.</p><p>Reuben said the deaths had "stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of pans."</p><p>"However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating," added Reuben.</p><p>Similar elephant deaths have also been recorded in neighboring Zimbabwe.</p>
Climate Change to Blame?<p>Not all cyanobacteria are toxic but scientists say varieties dangerous to humans and animals are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.</p><p>Southern Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p>
Elephant Paradise?<p>Africa's overall elephant population is declining due to poaching. But Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent's elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.</p><p>Botswana's government said it was continuing studies into the occurrence of the deadly bacteria. In the winter, elephants hydrate themselves mainly by eating roots and bark, especially of the baobab tree.</p>
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