Fluoride in tap water – What you can do

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has proposed that the nation's water utilities sharply reduce the amount of fluoride in tap water, to protect Americans, especially children, from tooth and bone damage caused by overexposure to this chemical.

Dentists have found that applying fluoride to tooth enamel is effective in preventing tooth decay. But people overexposed to fluoride can suffer tooth, joint and bone damage. Scientists have associated high fluoride consumption with reproductive and developmental system damage, neurotoxicity, hormonal disruption and bone cancer.

The HHS plan, announced January 7, 2011, and slated to become final sometime in the spring, would advise local water utilities to reduce the amount of fluoride in tap water to 0.7 milligrams per liter of water, down from the current, strictly voluntary HHS guidance -- 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency imposes a legally-binding cap on fluoride in tap water of 4 milligrams per liter – nearly six times the upper limit favored by HHS.

Learn how much fluoride is in your tap water.

By law, municipal water utilities must publish annual water quality reports - look online or call your utility for a copy. You can also learn about your utility's fluoridation program at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage, My Water's Fluoride.

Filter your tap water.

A reverse osmosis filter can remove fluoride from your tap water. Consider a filter, especially if you have young children or if your tap water contains more fluoride than the HHS-proposed maximum, 0.7 parts per million.

Bottled water is not the answer.

Nearly half of all bottled water comes from municipal tap water, most of which is fluoridated. If bottled water is your only option, look for brands that have been distilled or treated with reverse osmosis filtration.

Use fluoride-free water for infant formula.

Infants can be exposed to excessive fluoride when fluoridated tap water is mixed with concentrated or powdered formula.

Make sure children use the right toothpaste.

The American Dental Association recommends fluoride-free toothpaste for children under 2. For children under 6, the CDC recommends "child-strength" toothpastes with half the fluoride of adult toothpaste. Children should use a pea-sized dab of toothpaste, spit and rinse thoroughly.

Protect your pets.

Pet food commonly contains bone meal and other animal byproducts tainted with concentrated fluoride. Some studies have associated fluoride with bone cancer, a disease that afflicts many dogs. Read labels and buy pet foods free of bone meal and byproducts. Learn more.

Read more about fluoride and EWG's work on the issue here: https://www.ewg.org/featured/222