EWG Petitions Government to Evaluate Cancer-Causing Potential Of Fluoride in Tap Water

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, June 6, 2005

*** UPDATE: March 31, 2006 ***

On March 23, The Wall Street Journal reported that Dr. Elise Bassin's research finding that boys drinking fluoridated water face an increased risk of bone cancer will soon be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Dr. Bassin's research has been at the center of an ethics investigation of her PhD advisor at Harvard, Dr. Chester Douglass.

As a doctoral student at Harvard, Dr. Bassin looked more closely at Dr. Douglass' data for her dissertation research, and her dissertation reflects the cancer finding that Dr. Douglass' work does not. In June 2005, EWG asked the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to investigate whether Dr. Douglass—who also works for the Colgate toothpaste company—intentionally neglected to tell his federal funders that a dissertation he had approved contradicted his work.

The fluoride debate hit another milestone on March 22, when a National Academies of Science panel told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the EPA's standard for fluoride in water is inadequate to protect the public. Hopefully, the EPA will strongly consider Dr. Bassin's soon-to-be published findings as it reevaluates health risks posed by fluoride.


The Wall Street Journal article is available to subscribers online.


For Immediate Release: June 6, 2005
Contact: EWG Public Affairs, 202-667-6982



Government Asked to Evaluate the Cancer-Causing Potential Of Fluoride in Tap Water


EWG Cites Compelling Body of Science Linking Fluoride to Rare Bone Cancer in Boys


WASHINGTON — Citing a strong body of peer-reviewed evidence, Environmental Working Group (EWG) today asked the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to list fluoride in tap water in its authoritative Report on Carcinogens, based on its ability to cause a rare form of childhood bone cancer, osteosarcoma, in boys. The Report on Carcinogens lists only substances that are known or reasonably anticipated to cause cancer in humans.


In recent years, concerns have grown about the safety of fluoride in tap water. In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commissioned a study by the National Research Council (NRC) on the overall safety of fluoride in tap water. The final report is expected by February 2006. The NRC, however, does not have the expertise or the mandate to determine the carcinogenicity of fluoride.

EWG recognizes the value of fluoride to dentistry, yet a substantial and growing body of peer-reviewed science strongly suggests that adding fluoride to tap water is not the safest way to achieve the dental health benefits of fluoridation.

Nationwide about 170 million people live in communities with fluoridated water. Adding fluoride to tap water can be a contentious issue. There are ongoing fights over fluoridation in Colorado, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, California, Massachusetts and Nebraska. States with recent battles over fluoridation include New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Research dating back decades, much of it government funded, has long suggested that fluoride added to drinking water presents a unique cancer risk to the growing bones of young boys. New epidemiology provides strong evidence of a link between exposure to fluoride in tap water during the mid-childhood growth spurt between ages 6 and 10, and bone cancer in adolescence. Additional science strongly suggests that fluoride can cause genetic mutations in bone cells directly related to childhood bone cancer.

"We recognize the potential benefits of fluoride to dental health, but there is very compelling evidence that fluoride in tap water can cause bone cancer in boys," said EWG Senior Vice President Richard Wiles. "The government needs to assess the overall strength of the evidence and make a determination of fluoride's cancer-causing potential," Wiles added.

EWG's letter to the NTP and related materials can be found at https://www.ewg.org/node/21001


Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.