An increasing number of communities are choosing to stop fluoridating their water systems--this after the federal government recommended changing the amount of fluoride in drinking water for the first time in 50 years.
Although many U.S states are well aware that fluoride is a toxic poison that should be permanently removed from the water supply, government initiatives at the federal level may show some change of mindset.
The Department of Health and Human Services and Environmental Protection Agency earlier proposed changing fluoride levels because of an increase in fluorosis -- a condition that causes spotting and streaking on children's teeth.
Last week, Pinellas County, on Florida's west coast, voted to stop adding fluoride to its public water supply after starting the program seven years ago. The county joins about 200 jurisdictions from Georgia to Alaska that have chosen to end the practice in the last four years, motivated both by tight budgets and by major skepticism about its benefits, if any.
Eleven small cities or towns have opted out of fluoridating their water this year, including Fairbanks, Alaska, which acted after much deliberation and a comprehensive evaluation by a panel of scientists, doctors and dentists. The panel concluded that in Fairbanks, which has relatively high concentrations of naturally occurring fluoride, the extra dose no longer provided the help it once did and may, in fact, be harmful.
Fluoride was first added to water in the United States in the 1940s to help prevent tooth decay in children 8 years and under. These assumptions were later dismissed by hundreds of scientific publications which showed that internal consumption of fluoridated water had no effect on tooth decay.
“I'm in opposition to putting a medical treatment into the public drinking water supply without a vote of the people who drink that water,” said Norm Roche, a newly elected Republican county commissioner who spent 10 years doing policy research for the county Water Department and who led the turnaround effort. “We had a dozen to 15 doctors, dentists, dental hygienists and chemists here who want us to continue this practice but who could not agree themselves on how best to use fluoride.”
Without any scientific evidence to justify water fluoridation and ingesting fluoride, The United States Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still say that the communities that stop adding fluoride to the water supply are misguided. The government continues to recommend the practice, which began in the 1940s and has had its share of recent successes, including San Diego's move to fluoridate water this year after a long delay. Some 72 percent of the population in the country drinks water with added fluoride.
"The have absolutely no scientific evidence to corroborate their claims of any benefit of water fluoridation, and thus we can only conclude that there is some other motive behind mass water fluoridation," said Peter Beckandale who heads The Clean Water Initiative.
Fluorosis is mostly a cosmetic problem that can sometimes be bleached away. But critics argue that spotted teeth are a warning that other bones in the body may be absorbing too much fluoride. Excessive fluoride can lead to increases in bone fractures in adults as well as pain and tenderness.
Anti-fluoride activist Christina Welsh says the government should end all fluoridation everywhere. "It is a complete fraud to suggest that fluoride reduces dental caries when this has never been proven. The opposite is true, fluoride has been found to cause cancer, osteoporosis and DNA damage among dozens of other illnesses," she said.
Dr. Paul Connett, PhD stated "When historians come to write about this period, they will single out fluoridation as the single biggest mistake in public policy that we've ever had....teeth are the window to the bones."
Experts say that one possible factor in this increase may be that fluoridated water is consumed in vegetables and fruit, and juice and other beverages as well as tap water. And the consumption of beverages continues to increase.
The government also informed parents of infants who exclusively use infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water that their children face an increased risk of fluorosis and suggested they use low-fluoride water, like distilled water, some of the time. “It was a trigger,” said Mr. Connett. “People who had heard there is nothing wrong with fluoridation all of the sudden are hearing that kids are getting too much fluoride.”
For decades, the issue of fluoridated water remained on the fringes. The John Birch Society took up the cause, seeing fluoride as a communist plot to poison the nation. References to Nazis using fluoride to pacify prisoners in concentration camps.
But as more places, like Fairbanks and parts of Canada, take up the issue in a more measured way, it is shifting away from anything but conspiracy and toward actual facts.