Catherine Feuerherm, Michael Ryan and Jackie Leaf have the right to their own opinions on water fluoridation, but not to their own “facts.” As civil servants, they should provide the public with a balanced analysis of the practice. They should not parrot propaganda.
Sadly, this is what they did in a front-page article that appeared in the Cortland Standard on Feb. 6. I do not make this charge lightly. As a former professor who taught environmental chemistry and toxicology at St Lawrence University (I retired in 2006) I have followed this issue very closely for 21 years and co-authored a book on the subject that was shared with the aldermen Feb. 2.
While Feuerherm, Ryan and Leaf claim to be correcting “mistakes, misinformation and half-truths” of the citizens who spoke out against fluoridation at the Common Council meeting on Feb. 2, I am afraid that this description more accurately describes their own comments.
When they claim that “Every economically thriving community is fluoridated” they are ignoring communities like Homer, Ithaca, the whole of Long Island and the state capital Albany – none of which is fluoridated. They are also ignoring every European capital city save Dublin and Madrid.
While they agree that most European countries do not fluoridate their water, they claim that 19 fluoridate their salt. Actually only 5 European countries fluoridate their salt (France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic). Even so, fluoridated salt allows for individual choice and water fluoridation does not, especially for low-income families.
When they claim that fluoride “is not a drug” they are ignoring dictionary definition, which states that a drug is a substance used to treat, mitigate or prevent a disease. Fluoride is added to water to prevent the disease of tooth decay.
The fact that fluoride is a “natural element” does not make it safe to drink. Arsenic is also a natural element. But a better guide for what “nature” herself thinks about fluoride is the level in mothers’ milk. It is extremely low (0.004 ppm). This means a bottle-fed baby in a fluoridated community at the new level recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services (0.7 ppm) gets 175 times more fluoride than nature intended. In short, mothers’ milk protects the new-born baby from this known toxic substance, and water fluoridation removes that protection.
Contrary to claims by Leaf and Ryan, fluoridation is not like chlorination, which treats the water to make it safe to drink; fluoridation is using the public water supply to treat people. This is fundamentally different. Nor is fluoridation like vitamin D added to milk. Vitamin D is a known essential nutrient with a large margin of safety. Fluoride has no known nutritional value (any benefit is predominantly topical, CDC, 1999) and no adequate margin of safety to protect against harmful effects. Proponents do not deny that fluoride causes dental fluorosis (a discoloration and mottling of the enamel), which now affects 41% of US children aged 12 and 15 (CDC, 2010).
Leaf and Ryan claim that the suggestion that “fluoride leads to learning disabilities in children” is “bogus” because it is based on one study of “Chinese children in a region where naturally occurring levels of fluoride far exceeded US community fluoridation.” In fact the concerns are based on over 300 animal and human studies that find fluoride is neurotoxic (brain damaging). These include not one but 49 IQ studies from China, India, Iran and Mexico. At least 10 of these studies found IQ lowered at levels less than the EPA’s current safe drinking water standard (4 ppm) and one of these studies (which controlled for lead, arsenic and iodine) found that IQ was lowered somewhere between 0.75 and 1.5 ppm (Xiang, 2003). This leaves no margin of safety to protect children who drink fluoridated water and get fluoride from other sources – especially so since the author of this particular study has told me personally that these children were neither bottle-fed nor used fluoridated toothpaste, two large sources for American children.
As far as the source of the fluoridating chemicals, Leaf and Ryan said that claims it is a by-product of the phosphate fertilizer industry are bogus. Not so. To extract soluble phosphate from phosphate rock, the rock is treated with sulfuric acid. This drives off two very toxic gases (hydrogen fluoride and silicon fluoride), which for many years caused considerable environmental damage in the vicinity of the plants. Eventually, the industry was forced to put wet scrubbers (a spray of water) on their plants to convert these gases into hexafluorosilicic acid. This substance (along with contaminants like arsenic, lead and trace amounts of radioactive substances) can neither be dumped into the sea by international law, nor dumped locally. However, if someone buys this waste it becomes a “product,” not “hazardous waste. ” It is this dodge that allows public water utilities to use this low-cost fluoridating agent instead of the cost-prohibitive pharmaceutical grade fluoride used in dental products. Like so many other aspects of this practice, this is bizarre.
Fluoridation should never have started. We do not use the public water supply to deliver any other medicine because once added, you cannot control the dose, or to whom the medicine is administered, and it violates every individual’s important right to informed consent to medication. No government has the right to do this, as many citizens pointed out last Tuesday. I am glad to say that the Common Council appears to agree with them, and I hope these misinformed claims by Leaf et al do not persuade them to do otherwise.
Dr. Paul Connett is a retired professor of chemistry. He taught at St. Lawrence University in Canton and has researched the toxicity of fluoride for 20 years. He is co-author of the book “The Case Against Fluoride” (Chelsea Green-2010). He lives in Binghamton.