Fluoridation and the Environment
Fluoride can be used in a variety of modes to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride toothpaste, fluoride varnish and community water fluoridation are the leading ways this occurs. Recently, researchers have studied the environmental impact of all these methods. In a new article, four researchers report that fluoridated water “had the lowest environmental impact” of all the community level programs for preventing decay.
In addition to water fluoridation, these researchers examined three other community level interventions for reducing childhood tooth decay — applying fluoride varnish in schools, operating a supervised toothbrushing program, and distributing free toothbrushes and toothpaste to families within a community.
The researchers used a comparative life cycle assessment to project the environmental impact of each approach. They measured the one-year impact when each of these methods is used for a 5 year-old child in Ireland.
A growing number of scientists are raising awareness about the need to assess the environmental impact of public health or health care services. The researchers who conducted this fluoride study identified it as the first study to quantify the environmental impact of water fluoridation on a per-person basis. Knowing this impact is relatively low is yet another reason to feel good about fluoridation.
Brett Duane, Associate Professor in Dental Public Health at Trinity College in Dublin, was the lead author of this study. “As the climate crisis starts to worsen,” he said, “we need to find ways of preventing disease to reduce the environmental impact of our health systems. This research clearly demonstrates the low carbon impact of water fluoridation as an effective prevention tool.”