USC researchers find link between neurobehavioral issues in kids and fluoridated drinking water

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CALIFORNIA – A new study, published May 20, found that fluoride exposure can cause harm to a fetus if consumed during pregnancy – a critical period for brain development.

According to the study, nearly three-quarters of the United States population receives drinking water that contains fluoride, a practice that began in 1945 that is said to help prevent tooth decay.

However, researchers at the USC Keck School of Medicine found that a 0.68 milligram per liter increase in fluoride exposure was associated with nearly double the chance of a child showing neurobehavioral problems.

Headaches, anxiety and symptoms linked to autism

The data from the study came from 229 mother-child pairs. The researchers calculated fluoride exposure from urine samples collected during the third trimester of pregnancy.

USC associate professor and senior author of the study Tracy Bastain, PhD said that women with higher fluoride exposure levels during pregnancy tended to rate their 3-year-old children higher on overall neurobehavioral problems and internalizing symptoms.

These problems include emotional reactivity, somatic complaints (such as headaches and stomachaches), anxiety and symptoms linked to autism.

The study says these findings add to existing evidence from animal studies showing that fluoride can harm neurodevelopment. Studies conducted in Canada, Mexico and other countries also have shown that prenatal exposure to fluoride is linked with a lower IQ in early childhood.

Impact on the US population

The researchers say currently, no official recommendations exist for limiting fluoride consumption during pregnancy, but they hope these findings can help stimulate change.

“There are no known benefits to the fetus from ingesting fluoride,” said University of Florida assistant professor Ashley Malin, PhD, who also worked on the study. “And yet now we have several studies conducted in North America suggesting that there may be a pretty significant risk to the developing brain during that time.”

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RELATED: California to pipe purified sewage to 1.5 Million Socal residents for drinking water by 2032


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