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Fluoride use by pregnant women linked to childhood behavioral problems, USC study finds

Study finds child behavioral problems linked to fluoride consumption by pregnant women
Study finds child behavioral problems linked to fluoride consumption by pregnant women 00:34

A just-released University of Southern California study found that pregnant women exposed to fluoride have an increased risk of their child demonstrating behavioral problems.

The research, published Monday by the Keck School of Medicine of USC, is the first U.S.-based study examining the link between prenatal fluoride and childhood social, emotional, and behavioral functioning.

Researchers say they hope the new findings convey the risks of fluoride consumption during pregnancy.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans consume drinking water containing fluoride, a practice that began in 1945 to help prevent tooth decay, according to researchers.

The study analyzed more than 220 mother-child pairs, collecting data on fluoride levels during pregnancy and child behavior at age 3.

The researchers found that a 0.68 milligram per liter increase in fluoride exposure was associated with almost double the chance of a child showing neurobehavioral problems in a range considered close to or at a level to meet the criteria for clinical diagnosis.

"Women with higher fluoride exposure levels in their bodies during pregnancy tended to rate their 3-year-old children higher on overall neurobehavioral problems and internalizing symptoms, including emotional reactivity, anxiety, and somatic complaints," said Tracy Bastain, an associate professor of clinical population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine.

The findings add to existing evidence from animal studies showing that fluoride can harm neurodevelopment, as well as data from studies done in Canada, Mexico, and other countries showing that prenatal fluoride exposure is linked with a lower IQ in early childhood, according to the study.

Currently, no official recommendations exist for limiting fluoride consumption during pregnancy. However, the researchers hope the findings can help stimulate change. 

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