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Fluoride exposure and reported learning disability diagnosis among Canadian children: Implications for community water fluoridation

Amanda M. Barberio, Carlos Quiñonez, F. Shaun Hosein, Lindsay McLaren


OBJECTIVES: Recent studies have connected increased fluoride exposure with increased risk of neurodevelopmental-related outcomes, such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and lower IQ in children. Our primary objective was to examine the association between fluoride exposure and reported diagnosis of a learning disability among a population-based sample of Canadian children aged 3–12 years.

METHODS: We analyzed data from Cycles 2 and 3 of the Canadian Health Measures Survey. Four measures of fluoride exposure were available: 1) urinary fluoride (μmol/L), 2) creatinine-adjusted urinary fluoride (μmol/mmol), 3) specific gravity-adjusted urinary fluoride (μmol/L), and 4) fluoride concentration of tap water (mg/L) (Cycle 3 only). Diagnosis of a learning disability (yes/no) was based on parental- or self-report. Associations were examined using logistic regression (where possible), unadjusted and adjusted for covariates.

RESULTS: When Cycles 2 and 3 were examined separately, reported learning disability diagnosis was not significantly associated with any measure of fluoride exposure in unadjusted or adjusted models. When Cycles 2 and 3 were combined, a small but statistically significant effect was observed such that children with higher urinary fluoride had higher odds of having a reported learning disability in the adjusted model (p = 0.03). However, the association was not observed in models that used creatinine-adjusted urinary fluoride and specific gravity-adjusted urinary fluoride, which are believed to be more accurate measures due to their correction for urinary dilution.

CONCLUSION: Overall, there did not appear to be a robust association between fluoride exposure and parental- or self-reported diagnosis of a learning disability among Canadian children.


Population; fluoridation; cognition; learning disorders; surveys and questionnaires

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