Fact Check: Water With Fluoride Does NOT Cause Neurological Damage In Babies

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: Water With Fluoride Does NOT Cause Neurological Damage In Babies Science = Safe

Does water with fluoride cause neurological damage in babies? No, that's not true: Fluoridation is approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics with no age restrictions. The Centers states that fluoride "has been proven to protect teeth from decay." The social media post about neurological damage to babies gives no scientific evidence to back up its claim.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on Instagram on March 5, 2024, with the title "Do NOT Buy This Water for Babies." It began:

Please do not buy this water for your babies, it is very dangerous. ... This water has fluoride, it says for babies. You do not want babies drinking water with fluoride.

The narrator goes on to say that:

Fluoride does a lot of damage to bones and teeth and potentially the brain.

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-03-08 at 17.19.19.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken Fri Mar 8 at 22:23:00 2024 UTC)

The person in the video who makes the claim identifies himself as Robert Love and as a "neuroscientist." He claims on his LinkedIn page (archived here) that he "finished his PhD online" after studying cognitive psychology, but says nothing about studying neuroscience, which is a separate discipline:

He graduated from Swarthmore College with Honors.
He started his PhD in cognitive psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, one of the top psychology programs in the country. At Texas he studied under Arthur B. Markman. Dr Markman is a cognitive psychologist, and worked as a consultant for the Dr. Phil Show. Dr. Love finished his PhD online.
His dissertation explored focus and attention in ADHD. Specifically, he investigated which intervention would have the greatest benefit for attention: a prescription drug (Adderall), caffeine (coffee), or exercise. Dr. Love has continued his education with Stanford Medical School online and Harvard online.

Despite Love's apparent medical education, he offered no peer-reviewed scientific evidence or studies from medical journals or other publications to support his claims.

Fluoride (archived here) is a natural mineral, and sodium fluoride, which is what's added to water systems, is the inorganic salt of fluoride. Fluoridated water is not only safe to drink, but has "proven to prevent teeth from decay," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (archived here).

Fluoridation is across-the-board approved by the CDC, with no age restrictions, as the CDC website notes. The agency lists the addition of fluoride to drinking water in the United States as one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century:

Since 1945, hundreds of cities have started community water fluoridation and in 2020, nearly 73% of the United States served by community water systems had access to fluoridated water. Because of its contribution to the dramatic decline in tooth decay over the past 75 years, CDC named community water fluoridation as 1 of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

The American Academy of Pediatrics website (archived here) also states that there is no age restriction for the benefits of fluoride in water:

Adding fluoride to water is safe and benefits everyone. In fact, as more and more communities have added fluoride to water supplies, our nation has seen a major decline in cavities and other dental problems. Fluoridation has been identified as the most practical and cost-effective method of delivering fluoride to all members of a community, regardless of age, education, or income.

The CDC website (archived here) concedes that mixing infant formula with fluoridated water has the potential to increase fluorosis -- the presence of white or brown speckles on the teeth, according to the Cleveland Clinic (archived here) -- but it does not warn against fluoridated water or say that it causes neurological damage in babies:

Because most infant formulas contain low levels of fluoride, regularly mixing powdered or liquid infant formula concentrate with fluoridated water may increase the chance of a child developing the faint white markings of mild fluorosis.

In November 2020, the American Academy of Pediatrics, a national professional organization, published a press release (archived here) titled, "American Academy of Pediatrics: Fluoride Remains a Powerful Tool to Prevent Tooth Decay," that cited a clinical report ("Fluoride Use in Caries Prevention in the Primary Care Setting") that emphasized the advantages of fluoride for dental care:

The report, from the AAP Section on Oral Health, marks the first update in recommendations since 2014 and is published in the December 2020 Pediatrics (published online Nov. 30).

'Fluoride has consistently been proven effective at preventing tooth decay, which, when left untreated, can lead to pain, loss of teeth and serious infections,' said Melinda B. Clark, MD, FAAP, lead author of the report. 'Pediatricians can prevent dental disease by applying fluoride varnish, counseling families on nutrition and how to care for their children's teeth and referring to a dentist.'

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims about fluoride can be found here.

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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