Study explores association between fluoride exposure in pregnancy and neurobehavioral issues in young children

A man fills a water glass from a sink faucet

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Higher fluoride levels in pregnant women are linked to increased odds of their children exhibiting neurobehavioral problems at age 3, according to a new study led by a University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions researcher.

The findings, based on an analysis involving 229 mother-child pairs living in a U.S. community with typical fluoride exposure levels for pregnant women in fluoridated regions in North America, appear May 20 in the journal JAMA Network Open. It is believed to be the first U.S.-based study to examine associations of prenatal fluoride exposure with parent-reported child neurobehavioral issues, which include symptoms of anxiety, difficulty regulating emotions and other complaints, such as stomachaches and headaches.

Fluoride, a mineral, has been added to community water supplies since the 1940s as a way to reduce dental cavities in children and adults. Nearly three-quarters of the U.S. population receives fluoridated tap water from community water systems. The impacts of fluoride on human health, both positive and negative, have been the subject of much recent debate and ongoing scientific scrutiny.

The study’s lead investigator Ashley Malin, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and UF College of Medicine, said that taken with other recent studies conducted in Canada and Mexico on the effects of fluoride on young children’s IQ, the findings suggest fluoride may negatively affect fetal brain development.

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Jill Pease May 20, 2024