A panel of experts convened by Health Canada is recommending new optimal concentrations of fluoride in drinking water and suggesting the levels of fluoride ingested from a variety of sources by children and infants be lowered and monitored.

The authors suggest Health Canada adopt a level of 0.7 mg/L as the optimal target for fluoride in drinking water, to limit exposure. This level, they say, balances the need for dental cavity protection with the risk of dental fluorosis, which leads to staining or pitting of the teeth if too much fluoride is ingested.

The report, which was released in January of last year, was posted on Health Canada's website in April.

The panel notes in the report that the overall intake of fluoride in recent years has decreased, as have the concentrations of fluoride in infant formula.

It also does not find any link between fluoride and cancer, a decrease in IQ or reproductive, immunological or developmental toxicity. Previous studies have raised concerns about the toxic effects of fluoride and made connections between excessive consumption and such diseases as bone cancer.

The panel does acknowledge that excess fluoride intake, which constitutes 10 mg/day after 10 or more years of exposure, can lead to skeletal fluorosis, which is caused by too much accumulation of fluoride in the bones and leads to brittle and deformed bones.

However, "the current maximum acceptable concentration of 1.5 mg/L of fluoride in drinking water is unlikely to cause adverse health effects," reads the report.

The report does caution however, that infants are particularly vulnerable if they ingest powdered infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water. "The risk of excessive intake of fluoride is higher for infants consuming larger quantities of infant formulas," reads the report.

The panel subsequently calls on the manufacturers of infant formula to lower and standardize the fluoride concentration in infant formula.