What is in the Water? - Part 1

Updated: Jul 8

AUTHOR: Lee Reicheneder

Many drink water without much thought, some give it too much thought and others don’t drink much at all (another topic for another time). You may be surprised to find that like many things within our lives water is often not ‘simply water’ it is often composed of many different things which we then consume for better or for worse. For some you may feel ‘ignorance is bliss’ and yes it can feel that way at times; however, that type of ‘bliss’ is often short-lived compared to the more long-term ‘bliss’ that can be obtained once you decide what direction your path will take after acquiring knowledge. Unfortunately, when it comes to drinking water, it can be like jumping through a wormhole never knowing what you will discover on the other side, what or who can be trusted, and where to start the journey with so many different pathways to take. Therefore, over the next few blog article I hope to present you with information on the different types of water, things that can be present, and some arguments for/against a few of the different things that may be present in water you drink. This blog article focuses on the fluoride component in drinking water.


This is a naturally occurring substance that was first introduced the public water supplies between the 1940s-1950s and is now in the public drinking water of 26 countries across the world including Australia and New Zealand, its introduction has seen further inclusion of the substance into products such as toothpastes and mouthwashes easily accessible to you at your local grocery store, and also within the gels and varnishes used by many dentists (Mariño & Zaror,2020; Moore et al., 2021). In Australia all state and territory governments are responsible for regulation of fluoridation in drinking water and there is no national system of control surrounding use of this substance within water (Australian Government Department of Health Therapeutic Goods Administration, 2019). One example of this strategy is the Queensland Government which has had fluctuating fluoridation rates because of government changes, prior to 2008 the state of Queensland had 5% fluoridated water coverage, this jumped to 90% in 2008 due to fluoridation mandates, and now 76% of water supplies are fluoridated after removal of the mandate and closure of fluoridation plants in 18 areas in 2012 (McAuliffe et al., 2020) According to Mariño & Zaror (2020) the fluoride stimulates the remineralization of lesions reducing risk of demineralisation of the enamel on what would have otherwise been healthy teeth; furthermore it is said to be safe and effective for preventing dental caries by numerous sources (Australian Government National Health and Research Council, n.d; Mariño & Zaror,2020; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). In fact, fluoridation of water has been praised for the reduction of tooth decay both in prevalence and severity since its introduction at rates of 27-44% (McAuliffe et al., 2020; Australian Government National Health and Research Council, n.d). However, this inclusion of fluoridation in the drinking water is still one which fuels much debate for the concern over the potential risks this substance may cause.

According to a survey of 2,764 people conducted by Cairns Regional Council (n.d) in Queensland Australia 38% were opposed to the fluoridation of the water and the most predominate concerns raised during this survey were:

  • Fluoride is a poison.

  • It should be an individual’s choice whether to consume fluoride or not.

  • That fluoride can be harmful to your health and there are other ways to obtain it.

  • That it was mass medication.

(Cairns Regional Council, n.d - see attached file below)

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Is fluoride a poison, can it be harmful, is it mass medication?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that in small amounts may be important for the body to support optimal dental health and bone health (Whitney et al., 2016, p.482-483). The body does use fluoride to support your overall physical well-being; however, similar to many other nutrients this CAN become toxic (in that sense yes it can be poisonous to the body) if the body is exposed to it in large amounts, particularly if this happens frequently (Better Health Victoria, 2020; Whitney et al., 2015, p.483). In fact, the classification of fluoride as either nutrient or medicine and the need for it is argued by some like Peckham & Awofesco (2014) who outline the many uses of fluoride stating that it should instead be classified as a pollutant and that there are no documented cases of ‘deficiency’ which would otherwise occur with other ‘nutrients’ if the body did not obtain optimal amounts. In fact, Peckham & Awofesco (2014) argue that any guidelines set based on Adequate Daily Intake (AI) are flawed due to the fact that fluorides benefits are through topical application (direct to teeth) not internally and there is no ability to control individual dosing when it is obtained through consumption of fluoridated water, also highlighting ethical issues (such as limited evidence and lack of individual choice) associated with the inclusion of fluoride in water. Peckham & Awofesco (2014) are not alone in their concerns with many studies through the years highlighting a range of issues associated with fluoride toxicity, these concerns/issues include but are not limited to:

  • Damaged tooth enamel (fluorosis)

  • Skeletal damage including increased bone mass, pain, and deformities (skeletal fluorosis)

  • Calcification of ligaments and muscular pain (result of skeletal fluorosis)