The benefits of fluoride in the prevention of tooth decay are predominately topical, occurring only after teeth appear in the child’s mouth. Fortunately, pregnant women can use fluoridated toothpaste and, if they want to do more to prevent cavities, they can limit their consumption of sugar, a leading cause of tooth decay.

The loss of a single IQ point for an individual child is imperceptible, but the societal cost of millions of children losing 5 IQ points, or more is enormous. A decrement of even one IQ point translates to a 2 percent reduction in lifetime economic productivity (roughly $20,000), not to mention the additional educational costs required for children with lower IQs.

Many health and dental organizations in North America recommend community water fluoridation. Given the weight of evidence that fluoride is toxic to the developing brain, it is time for health organizations and regulatory bodies to review their recommendations and regulations to ensure they protect pregnant women and their children.

We can act now by recommending that pregnant women and infants reduce their fluoride intake.

Specialized water filtration systems can be used to remove fluoride from tap water for pregnant women and infants fed formula. Pregnant women can also avoid black tea, which hyper-accumulates fluoride. The good news for all women is that there is little fluoride in breast milk. Bottled water typically contains lower amounts of fluoride than fluoridated tap water.

Some health advocates are going a step further. In 2016, a group of citizens petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop adding fluoride to drinking water because it is toxic. The EPA rejected the petition. In response, the citizen’s group took an unprecedented step and sued the EPA in federal court. EPA lawyers argued half-heartedly that the science was insufficient and said the Agency does not have the resources to regulate fluoride under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

In August, Judge Edward Chen of the Ninth Circuit deferred his ruling on whether fluoridation poses an unreasonable risk until the NTP released their report.

New evidence questions existing policies about the safety of fluoride for babies’ developing brains. Given that safe alternatives are available and that there is no benefit of fluoride to babies’ teeth before they erupt or appear, it is time to protect those who are most vulnerable.

Originally published by Environmental Health News.