At this point fluoride in drinking water (not to mention toothpaste) is so widespread that we might not remember a time when its use was controversial. I personally don’t think that adding it to our water supply is wise, but I won’t discuss that here. I’ll simply recall my own experience with fluoride in the 1960s as something to keep in mind.
Beginning in 1966 when I was pregnant I became involved in the American Nutrition Society in the San Fernando Valley, becoming our chapter’s secretary and librarian in 1968. Years before joining us, one of our members—who I’ll call Michael—had decided his children should drink fluoridated bottled water to prevent tooth decay. One of Michael’s sons kept getting inner ear infections (otitis media), which continued for about five years. The infections were so severe that they required two or three surgical interventions. At this point Michael took his son to an M.D. who knew about nutrition and advised that Michael’s son might be allergic to fluoride. Michael took his son off the bottled water—this was decades before fluoride was added to L.A. water in 2007—and his son’s infections immediately stopped. Meanwhile I myself had read somewhere that fluoride could cause ear infections in some children.
At about the same time that Michael joined the Nutrition Society and told us about his experience with fluoride, my sister told me that her daughter was getting chronic ear infections. I asked about fluoride. Sure enough, she was giving her daughter a prescription of fluoridated baby vitamins, “because that’s what the doctor ordered.” I suggested she try regular baby vitamins. She resisted for another couple of months and every couple of weeks my niece had a new infection. Finally my sister agreed to try a three-month supply of non-fluoridated drops and my niece was free from infections that whole time. But when those vitamins ran out she returned to the fluoridated drops and within two days my niece had another infection. This convinced my sister.
Although these are only two anecdotes, when I searched the web today I was surprised to find no connection between fluoride and otitis media. Fluoride Action Network, an anti-fluoridation website, has posted recommendations for infants and children, but they also make no mention of ear infections. It’s been forty years since I did my own reading on the subject. This sends the librarian back to the library.