Fluoride in Europe: drinking water F levels in the west

14 Nov 2014 – last update

This article has information on fluoride concentrations in drinking water in western Europe. The next article has info on salt fluoridation and other systemic fluoride treatments, and dental statistics. It also takes a closer look at Scotland and the Netherlands.

Forced fluoridation in western Europe

The perpetrators of forced fluoridation often try to explain away the fact that reported dental caries rates are just as low in nonfluoridated western European countries as they are in countries where forced fluoridation is committed by exaggerating fluoride exposure in the former. According to the Fluoride Action Network website, the Irish Republic (73% of the population), Spain (11% of the population), and Britain (11% of the population) are the only countries in western Europe which subject their populations to fluoride pollution in their tap water, making up just 3% of the total western European population. Those figures come originally from the British Fluoridation Society (BFS) website.

The number for Ireland looks about right. The BFS says it’s 10% for Britain, for what it’s worth. According to the National Health Service around 5.8 million people are currently subjected to forced fluoridation in England, making the figure 9% for the UK population. For Spain, 11% appears to be a large overestimate. The BFS lists only one source of information for Spain, which is from 2005, even though there is now a 2013 edition of the book, namely Odontología preventiva y comunitaria: Principios, métodos y aplicaciones edited by Emili Cuenca Sala and Pilar Baca García, which appears to have always only been available in Spanish. I have found many sources of information, mostly via water utilities, government, and academic publications, and all of the recent sources are consistent on 2 points: (1) the Basque Country accounts for the majority of forced fluoridation in Spain – legislation passed in 1998 imposes it on cities with more than 30,000 inhabitants; (2) forced fluoridation is no longer inflicted on anyone living in Andalusia – the mid-1980s Decrees which enabled it were repealed in 2009. The BFS lists Seville, Córdoba, and Linares, which are in Andalusia and which account for a large proportion of its 11% estimate, among its force-fluoridated communities, so removing Andalusia from the calculation makes a big difference. At this point I am not able to make a precise estimate, but forced fluoridation is probably inflicted on no more than 5% of the Spanish population.

Whatever the exact figure for western Europe, the European Union has unfortunately not done anything to protect that small minority from abuse of power. In Britain it has lost the chance to do so.

Only a small number of western European nations have formally banned forced fluoridation. However, a large majority is not currently guilty – all of those countries either never force-fluoridated or have not done so since 1973 at the latest, apart from Finland, which appears to have ceased in 1992. The reunified Germany and the Czech Republic have never force-fluoridated, but the former East Germany and Czechoslovakia did. Ireland is the only western European nation which has ever inflicted this crime on most of its population, and a large majority of countries either never force-fluoridated or inflicted it on a small minority.

Some of the tap water in western Europe has geogenic fluoride levels around 1 ppm or higher, but only small minorities are saddled with those public drinking water supplies in each country. A small minority of bottled waters have geogenic fluoride concentrations at so-called “optimal levels” or above.

Fluoride levels in tap water in western Europe

On the next page is a list of western (or thereabouts) European cities, with links to the latest information I could find on fluoride concentrations in the tap water of those cities. For each of the 5 most populous countries, namely England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the 5 most populous cities or metropolitan areas have been listed. For the other countries with populations of at least 4 million, I have attempted to provide data for the 3 most populous communities in each country.

The fluoride concentrations are predominantly much lower than the 0.7 to 1.0 ppm nominal concentrations most commonly used for artificial water fluoridation, and mostly below 0.2 ppm. The information is not complete, and I’m only proficient in English so it’s possible there are some mistakes, but there has been no selective reporting. Apart from in Ireland, which inflicts forced fluoridation on everyone with a public water supply, the only community on the list which is artificially fluoridated is Birmingham, England. No other cities had fluoride concentrations consistently above 0.5 ppm, though Copenhagen is in the ballpark. Information on bottled water is listed on page 3.

Note that even though the fluoride concentrations are overwhelmingly low in comparison to those used for forced fluoridation, they are not necessarily safe. The idea that naturally occurring fluoride is more or less harmless is a myth, and as a point of reference, the average fluoride concentration of breastmilk is around 0.004 ppm (equivalent to 4 parts per billion). Fluoride is a highly toxic, cumulative poison.