Fluoride: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed

Drs. Richard and Karilee Shames on the Thyroid/Fluoride Linkage

by Mary Shomon

Richard Shames, M.D. graduated Harvard and University of Pennsylvania, did research at the National Institutes of Health with Nobel Prize winner Marshall Nirenberg, and has been in private practice for twenty five years. Dr. Shames practices holistic medicine — with a focus on thyroid and autoimmune conditions — out of Boca Raton, Florida, and has for twenty years been engaged in the search for answers about thyroid disease. Karilee Halo Shames R.N., Ph.D., Dr. Shames’ wife, is herself hypothyroid, and is a Clinical Specialist in Psychiatric Nursing and a Certified Holistic Nurse with a PhD. in Holistic Studies. The Shames wrote a book called Thyroid Power, released in 2001, that talks about thyroid disease.

Mary Shomon: An increasing number of practitioners have identified fluoride as a health concern, and more jurisdictions are fighting fluoridation of water, citing health concerns. In addition to believing that fluoride can cause a variety of health problems, you both have long held that fluoride can trigger or worsen hypothyroidism. Can you explain a bit about how and why fluoride can negatively impact health, and specifically the thyroid?

Drs. Shames: Of major interest to us was the statement released Jan 2, 1997 from the employees union of the Environmental Protection Agency, representing 1500 scientists, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals at EPA headquarters in Washington DC. The statement reads: “Our members’ review of the body of evidence over the last 11 years, including animal and human epidemiology studies, indicates a causal link between fluoride/fluoridation and cancer, genetic damage, neurological impairment, and bone pathology.”

This article was released during a time that we were actively engaged in reviewing the thyroid medical literature for our forthcoming book. We were surprised, and amhow little of this information was seeping into public knowledge. In fact, the promoters of fluoride in municipal water supplies were oddly becoming more zealous than ever.

Then we discovered that the original research intended to support the initial addition of fluoride into drinking water, was flawed. For example, in 1945, the US Public Health Service began to add sodium fluoride into the municipal drinking water of Grand Rapids, MI, the first city in the US to fluoridate. Grand Rapids was supposed to serve as the test city. It’s dental decay rates were to be compared with those of Muskegon, MI, which was non-fluoridated. After ten years, it was to be determined if fluoride was both safe and effective.

Amazingly, this “research” was to be performed on an entire city, rather than using a voluntary sampling group initially. More strange was that long before the study was completed, the Public Health Service and the American Dental Association endorsed fluoridation. This was in 1950, only a few years into the supposed ten-year study. WIthin a short time after that, Muskegon, the control city, was also fluoridated. The decision and the endorsements entirely overshadowed the fact that the tooth decay rate in non-fluoridated Muskegon had decreased about as much as the fluoridated city, Grand Rapids.

Not only was the science incomplete, but in addition, sodium fluoride was soon replaced by another fluoride substance, hydrofluosilicic acid, a byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry primarily, and also from some aluminum plants.

Early in the 1950’s, the PHS gave its blessing to these alternate sources of fluoride, without having even attempted to research them. The EPA admits it still has no data on the long term detrimental effects of silicofluorides. Furthermore, our research of older medical articles revealed that fluoride was once used as an anti-thyroid medicine, prescribed by doctors in hospitals and clinics. It was used to slow down an overactive thyroid. In addition, it was also effective in slowing down a normal or already-sluggish hypothyroid gland. For instance, in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, Volume 18, 1958, page 1102, Drs. Galetti and Goyer explain the “Effect of Fluorine in Thyroidal Iodine Metabolism in Hyperthyroidism”.

Also of historical interest is the item we came across describing how the Nazi concentration camps used fluoridated water to suppress the will and vigor of inmates. This appears to have been during the 1930’s and was the first known example of fluoridated water supplies for a specific population.

Since our review of the thyroid literature was revealing a growing epidemic, we became interested in possible causes for this mushrooming incidence of a specific autoimmune illness. We came to believe that the thyroid epidemic could be due, in large part, to the bombardment of our collective thyroid glands by chemicals considered to be helpful, but which are actually harmful. Fluoride is just one of a great many such substances dumped into the environment, with deleterious human results. It is a particularly noteworthy example because it is supposed to be beneficial, as well as totally benign to even the youngest members of the society, for whom it is targeted. In fact, it appears to be neither benign nor all that effective.

We now feel convinced that the thyroid epidemic could be due largely to the excessive harmful chemicals in our food, air, and water, confusing and stressing our immune systems. The chemical triggering of autoimmune thyroid falls into the category of “hormone disruption”. Wonderful books on this topic include: OUR STOLEN FUTURE, by Colburn, Dumanosky, and Myers, as well as HORMONAL CHAOS, by Sheldon Krimsky. We also discuss this topic at greater length, and provide multiple references, in our forthcoming book THYROID POWER.

Mary Shomon: Fluoride is seemingly everywhere…in our drinking water, absorbed via our skin from the water we shower and bathe in, in our toothpastes, being pushed at us by dentists in fluoride treatments. What can and should the average thyroid patient realistically do, in terms or reducing — or even eliminating — their fluoride exposure?

Drs. Shames: Not everyone needs to avoid fluoride like the plague, but thyroid sufferers should.

The first step to take is to stop drinking fluoridated water. You will need more than the standard carbon cannister water filters for this purpose. Instead, you will need a reverse osmosis or distillation unit. THe carbon block filters are highly recommended to remove the chlorine and bromine, also major thyroid disruptors.

The next step is to – in general – live a more chemically free, and immune-friendly lifestyle. You might start by reading household product labels the same way you read food labels. You might look to see what medicines have fluorine atoms as part of their chemical structure. The Prozac class of antidepressants, (which includes Zoloft, Paxil, etc.) is one of the largest-selling examples of this kind of drug.

Non-fluoridated toothpaste is easily available with a bit of looking carefully at the health food store shelf (many health food toothpastes are fluoridated, but not all of them). There are also non-fluoridated tooth powders, such as Ipsab, an excellent Edgar Cayce product.

In addition, the autoimmune triggering effect is multifactorial. You can reduce the impact of fluoride, some of which may be unavoidable, by reducing your exposure to other harmful chemicals. Avoid products that have nasty-sounding ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Avoid chemically-smelling air whenever possible. Use regular strength household products, instead of extra stength or industrial strength products. Substitute diluted vinegar, or full-strength ginger ale as a good household cleanser.

There are distilled water products available at the stores, which are preferable to bottled waters, juices, and teas whose fluoride content you cannot verify. Do your best to avoid cigarette smoke, fabric stores, radiator shops, and newly carpeted or painted rooms. Ants and fleas in the home can be handled with boric acid diatumaceous earth, and other non-toxic means. Support companies that specialize in non-toxic, organic pest control. Also, consider using a HEPA portable air filter in your sleeping space and office. These can be purchased from any of the major department stores.

And finally, get politically involved. Fluoride will not be such a big part of the environment when more and more people start telling their city councils and local water boards that they don’t want this toxic waste product added to their municipal water supplies. This debate is currently raging across the US, even though most other industrialized countries have either banned or rejected this questionable public health practice.

Mary Shomon: All the popular toothpastes for children have fluoride, and as early as age 3 and 4, dentists start suggesting fluouride treatments. As the parent of a young child, I don’t want to neglect her dental treatment, but concerns regarding fluoride, plus the fact that I have autoimmune thyroid disease and have likely passed on that tendency to her, make me doubly concerned to expose her to too much fluoride. But how much is too much? Should all children be drinking bottled water, using non-fluoride toothpaste, and avoiding fluoride treatments, or just children of parents with autoimmune thyroid disease? And if we choose the non-fluoride route, are there other things we can do to ensure the dental health our our children?

Drs. Shames: Many thyroid parents would do well to tell their dentist that their child is allergic to fluoride because of the family history of autoimmune thyroiditis, and ask for alternative maneuvers. Be sure your child brushes frequently, flosses regularly, and avoids sugar.

As we mentioned there are many toothpastes without fluoride when one searches carefully. We realize that it is possible that children not using fluoride could possibly have more cavities, but this has not been proven to every doctor’s satisfaction. We personally don’t believe that is the case. We believe that the benefits of fluoride, even for children, have been overstated, and the risks minimized.

Specifically with children in mind, all that we have said above for adults we emphasize for the younger members of our society. The developing thyroid gland is particularly sensitive to chemical assault. The stage that is set early in life can become the backdrop for many years of adult problems – even if there is some benefit in reduction of cavities in children’s teeth. There is also the risk of dental fluorosis, a growing dental problem in fluoridated areas (too much fluoride is bad for teeth). Moreover, the total health of the child is more important than the single area of baby teeth (according to John Yiamouyiannis, PhD, in his book FLUORIDE: THE AGING FACTOR, fluoride has NEVER been shown to be helpful for adult teeth).

As to your question about how much is too much, we know that 4 or 5 mg per day is too much. THe problem is — NO ONE REALLY KNOWS HOW MUCH PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY GETTING! People who exercise and drink a lot of water, who use fluoridated toothpaste, and use fluoride dental treatments thinking they are doing the right thing, and who drink sodas, juices, and teas likely made from fluoridated water, including those who bathe frequently, swim in pools, etc. may be overdosing on fluoride all the time without realizing it. There is NO way to measure one’s exposure. Many children use gobs of toothpaste, and swallow it because it tastes so good.

We specifically recommend moderation, careful monitoring, for those who feel a need to use some for their children’s teeth, use it sparingly and under close supervision. As with many health matters, moderation is the key. For those interested in further pursuing this important topic, we highly recommend the website www.fluoridealert.org.


Richard Shames, M.D. offers consultations by telephone. To schedule an appointment, please see their website.