The Facts about Fluoride and the Environment

Concern: “Much of the fluoride in water is never consumed. And the fluoride that is released into the environment harms fish, wildlife and water quality.”

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Fact: These concerns are not backed up by the evidence. Various studies[i] have determined that the amount of fluoride released into the environment from water fluoridation is insignificant. One study[ii] reported finding no instance in which a city’s fluoridation violated the recommended environmental standards for water. As a reference point, it’s worth noting that the fluoride concentration in sea water[iii] — in which many fish and other creatures live — is roughly the same as the level used in water fluoridation.

Concern: “Fluoride can harm plants and animals that live in the wild.”

Fact: The fluoride level in a fluoridated water system is not high enough to harm any plant or animal species.[iv] Anti-fluoride groups claim that runoff from fluoridated water can harm fish. But research shows that this runoff does not cause any harm to salmon.[v]

There is no evidence that fluoridated water has a negative effect on plants, gardens or lawns, or plants.[vi] Research shows that even high levels of fluoride do not have a toxic effect on plants in ponds.[vii]

Concern: “The Environmental Protection Agency opposes water fluoridation. I even saw a statement by an EPA official voicing concern about fluoridation.”

Fact: The EPA “official” referred to was not one of the agency’s leaders. Instead, he was a leader of EPA’s staff union. Many years ago, the union raised concerns about fluoride’s safety and called for more studies to be done. The union specifically identified osteosarcoma — a rare bone cancer — as a “particular concern.” Since the staff union raised these issues, much has happened.

  • A Harvard study released in 2011[viii] found no link between fluoride and bone cancer. The design of this study was approved by the National Cancer Institute. The study is also considered very reliable because it examined actual fluoride levels in bone.
  • In October 2011[ix], after lengthy review, an expert panel of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment voted unanimously that the evidence did not support classifying fluoride as a cancer-causing substance.

In 2011, a senior EPA official issued a joint statement with another federal health official, citing the “strong evidence that water fluoridation is safe and effective” for preventing tooth decay. [x]

Concern: “The FDA has never approved fluoride additives, so there are no standards ensuring the safety and purity of these additives.”

Fact: The FDA was not intended to regulate the quality of fluoride in drinking water. The quality and safety of fluoride additives are ensured by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Standard 60[xi] program. Standard 60 uses on-site inspections to confirm the additives meet quality and safety standards. Testing has confirmed[xii] that arsenic or other substances in fluoride additives are well within the safe level based on limits set by the EPA. A peer-reviewed study in 2004 found that the Standard 60 process is successfully ensuring that fluoride additives have a high level of purity and safety

Concern: “Fluoride is a by-product from the phosphate fertilizer industry.” Opponents use this misleading message to associate fluoride with fertilizer.

Fact: Fluoride is extracted from phosphate rock, and so is phosphoric acid—an ingredient in Coke and Pepsi. Neither one of them comes from fertilizer.

Fluoride is extracted from the same phosphate rock that is later used to create fertilizers that will enrich soil. This is accomplished through an efficient process, and it is wrong to suggest that fluoride “comes from fertilizer.”

The quality and safety of fluoride additives are ensured by Standard 60, a program commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Standard 60 is a set of standards created and monitored by an independent committee of health experts. This committee provides regular reports to the EPA. More than 80 percent of fluoride additives are produced by U.S. companies, but no matter where they come from, Standard 60 uses on-site inspections and even surprise “spot checks” to confirm the additives meet quality and safety standards.[xiii]


[i] H F Pollick. Water Fluoridation and the Environment: Current Perspective in the United States. International

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, (2004), Vol. 10, 343-350 @

[ii]J W Osterman.  Evaluating the impact of municipal water fluoridation on the aquatic environment. American Journal of Public Health October 1990: Vol. 80, No. 10, pp. 1230-1235.

doi: 10.2105/AJPH.80.10.1230 @

[iii] T G Thompson and H J Taylor. Determination and occurrence of fluorides in sea water. ACS Publications.

[iv] Pollick, 2004.

[v] Pollick, 2004.

[vi] Pollick, 2004.

[vii] A Kudo and J P Garrec. Accidental release of fluoride into experimental pond and accumulation in sediments,

plants, algae, mollusks and fish. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, (September 1983), Vol. 3, No. 3, 189-

198 @






[xiii] E-mail communication from Kip Duchon, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to the Pew Center on

the States, March 26, 2012. (Note: Duchon is the CDC’s National Fluoridation Engineer.)