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Association Between Maternal Fluoride Exposure During Pregnancy and IQ Scores in Offspring in Canada.

  • Green, Rivka1
  • Lanphear, Bruce2, 3
  • Hornung, Richard4
  • Flora, David1
  • Martinez-Mier, E Angeles5
  • Neufeld, Raichel1
  • Ayotte, Pierre6, 7
  • Muckle, Gina7, 8
  • Till, Christine1
  • 1 Faculty of Health, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 2 Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 3 Child and Family Research Institute, British Columbia Children's Hospital, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 4 Pediatrics and Environmental Health, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • 5 School of Dentistry, Indiana University, Indianapolis. , (India)
  • 6 Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Laval University, Québec City, Québec, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 7 Centre de Recherche du CHU de Québec, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 8 School of Psychology, Laval University, Québec City, Québec, Canada. , (Canada)
Published Article
JAMA pediatrics
Publication Date
Aug 19, 2019
DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.1729
PMID: 31424532


The potential neurotoxicity associated with exposure to fluoride, which has generated controversy about community water fluoridation, remains unclear. To examine the association between fluoride exposure during pregnancy and IQ scores in a prospective birth cohort. This prospective, multicenter birth cohort study used information from the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals cohort. Children were born between 2008 and 2012; 41% lived in communities supplied with fluoridated municipal water. The study sample included 601 mother-child pairs recruited from 6 major cities in Canada; children were between ages 3 and 4 years at testing. Data were analyzed between March 2017 and January 2019. Maternal urinary fluoride (MUFSG), adjusted for specific gravity and averaged across 3 trimesters available for 512 pregnant women, as well as self-reported maternal daily fluoride intake from water and beverage consumption available for 400 pregnant women. Children's IQ was assessed at ages 3 to 4 years using the Wechsler Primary and Preschool Scale of Intelligence-III. Multiple linear regression analyses were used to examine covariate-adjusted associations between each fluoride exposure measure and IQ score. Of 512 mother-child pairs, the mean (SD) age for enrollment for mothers was 32.3 (5.1) years, 463 (90%) were white, and 264 children (52%) were female. Data on MUFSG concentrations, IQ scores, and complete covariates were available for 512 mother-child pairs; data on maternal fluoride intake and children's IQ were available for 400 of 601 mother-child pairs. Women living in areas with fluoridated tap water (n = 141) compared with nonfluoridated water (n = 228) had significantly higher mean (SD) MUFSG concentrations (0.69 [0.42] mg/L vs 0.40 [0.27] mg/L; P = .001; to convert to millimoles per liter, multiply by 0.05263) and fluoride intake levels (0.93 [0.43] vs 0.30 [0.26] mg of fluoride per day; P = .001). Children had mean (SD) Full Scale IQ scores of 107.16 (13.26), range 52-143, with girls showing significantly higher mean (SD) scores than boys: 109.56 (11.96) vs 104.61 (14.09); P = .001. There was a significant interaction (P = .02) between child sex and MUFSG (6.89; 95% CI, 0.96-12.82) indicating a differential association between boys and girls. A 1-mg/L increase in MUFSG was associated with a 4.49-point lower IQ score (95% CI, -8.38 to -0.60) in boys, but there was no statistically significant association with IQ scores in girls (B = 2.40; 95% CI, -2.53 to 7.33). A 1-mg higher daily intake of fluoride among pregnant women was associated with a 3.66 lower IQ score (95% CI, -7.16 to -0.14) in boys and girls. In this study, maternal exposure to higher levels of fluoride during pregnancy was associated with lower IQ scores in children aged 3 to 4 years. These findings indicate the possible need to reduce fluoride intake during pregnancy.

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