Fluoride Exposure and Cognitive Functions, Chinese Children

Choi AL, Zhang Y, Sun G, Bellinger DC, Wang K, Yang XJ, Li JS, Zheng Q, Fu Y, Grandjean P. Association of lifetime exposure to fluoride and cognitive functions in Chinese children: a pilot study. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2015 Jan-Feb;47:96-101. doi: 10.1016/j.ntt.2014.11.001. Erratum in Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2015 Sep-Oct;51():89.

BACKGROUND: A systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies on developmental fluoride neurotoxicity support the hypothesis that exposure to elevated concentrations of fluoride in water is neurotoxic during development.

METHODS: We carried out a pilot study of 51 first-grade children in southern Sichuan, China, using the fluoride concentration in morning urine after an exposure-free night; fluoride in well-water source; and dental fluorosis status as indices of past fluoride exposure. We administered a battery of age-appropriate, relatively culture-independent tests that reflect different functional domains: the Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning (WRAML), Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-IV) digit span and block design; finger tapping and grooved pegboard. Confounder-adjusted associations between exposure indicators and test scores were assessed using multiple regression models.

RESULTS: Dental fluorosis score was the exposure indicator that had the strongest association with the outcome deficits, and the WISC-IV digit span subtest appeared to be the most sensitive outcome, where moderate and severe fluorosis was associated with a digit span total score difference of -4.28 (95% CI -8.22, -0.33) and backward score with -2.13 (95% CI -4.24, -0.02).

CONCLUSIONS: This pilot study in a community with stable lifetime fluoride exposures supports the notion that fluoride in drinking water may produce developmental neurotoxicity, and that the dose-dependence underlying this relationship needs to be characterized in detail.

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