How does fluoride exposure during pregnancy affect children's development? How does fluoride exposure during pregnancy affect children's development?

How does fluoride exposure during pregnancy affect children's development?

How does fluoride exposure during pregnancy affect children's development?
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A new study suggests a link between high fluoride exposure during pregnancy and neurobehavioral problems in children.

The new study found that women who were exposed to higher levels of fluoride during pregnancy later reported that their children were more likely to have tantrums, complain of vague headaches and stomach aches and exhibit other neurobehavioral symptoms, such as anxiety and symptoms associated with autism.

“Fluoride exposure during pregnancy does not mean the baby will have greater neurobehavioral problems,” said Tracy Bastin, senior author of the study and associate professor of clinical demographics and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

“We found an association between higher prenatal exposure and more neurobehavioral problems at age three, but more studies are needed to establish a causal relationship,” she explained.

Study data came from the University of Southern California's MADRES Center for Environmental Health Disparities.

The MADRES Center follows predominantly Hispanic families in Los Angeles from pregnancy through childhood.

The researchers calculated fluoride exposure from urine samples collected from 229 women during the last three months of pregnancy.

The study authors said that children whose mothers had higher levels of fluoride were 83% more likely to show internalizing behavioral problems (directed within the individual, such as fear, shyness, and anxiety).

No relationship was found to "externalizing behaviors" such as aggression and attention problems.

“This is the first U.S.-based study to examine this association,” Ashley Malin, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the University of Florida College of Medicine, said in a statement. “Our findings are noteworthy, given that women in "This study showed that women were exposed to very low levels of fluoride, levels typical of those living in areas within North America."

Fluoride has been added to drinking water in these areas for decades to help prevent tooth decay.

Fluoride has been proven to strengthen enamel, prevent bacterial growth, and replenish lost minerals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2020, more than 209 million people, or 72.7% of the US population, obtain fluoridated water through public water systems.

However, the anti-fluoridation movement hopes to reduce this number. Anti-fluoridation advocates say it infringes on their health freedom, and some have even successfully lobbied for a ban in their cities.

Others point to a 2019 Canadian study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics that linked higher levels of fluoride exposure during pregnancy to lower IQ scores in 3- and 4-year-olds.

The authors of this study stopped short of recommending a ban on fluoride, but said: "These findings suggest a potential need to reduce fluoride intake during pregnancy."

The authors of the new study also do not say that fluoride should not be added to water, but instead suggest "the need to develop recommendations to limit fluoride exposure during the prenatal period."

The researchers plan to explore how fluoride exposure during pregnancy affects brain development among infants.

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

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  1. New study links prenatal fluoride exposure to neurobehavioral issues in children.

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