Controversy over the fluoridation of Sammamish’s municipal water began two years ago in public hearings. Health concerns were aired, benefits touted and the water has been fluoridated ever since.
Science, however, never rests.
Armed with new findings by a prominent research group, a group of concerned Sammamish residents recently asked Sammamish Plateau Water & Sewer District commissioners to warn residents about fluoride‘s potentially adverse health effects on infants.
New findings late last year by the National Research Council, part of the congressionally chartered National Academies, suggest that infants could get higher-than-recommended amounts of fluoride when fluoridated water is used to mix formula from liquid concentrate or powder. Overexposure could lead to enamel fluorosis, which can discolor and damage teeth.
The American Dental Association issued an “interim guidance” Nov. 8 on what parents should do while more research is conducted. The group advised parents to use ready-to-feed formula for infants in the first year, and to use non-fluoridated water with powders or concentrates.
Occasional use of fluoridated water in infant food “should not appreciably increase a child’s risk for fluorosis,” the recommendation said.
The new findings, however, prompted Sammamish resident Linda Joy and 10 other local citizens, including from Issaquah and Redmond, to ask the water district to warn its customers about using its water to make infant formula.
Joy, a member of the fledgling Washington Action for Safe Water, believes a warning on water bills or a newsletter to the district’s water customers would have been appropriate. District officials responded last month that fluoride information is on its Web site and that dental professionals should advise patients on fluoride use.
General Manager Ron Little, responding to e-mail inquiries by Sammamish Council Don Gerend, said district commissioners are committed to supplying high-quality water that meets or exceeds state and federal regulations.
Little noted in an e-mail that the district’s Web site, www.sammplat.wa.org, includes relevant links for further information about water quality. He also encouraged customers to seek advice from medical professionals.
Little did not return a request for further comment from the Review before press time.
Joy said that decision goes against the district’s mission statement to provide safe water and “customer service.”
“It seems like they’re making a decision not to notify the public,” she said. “If it’s not safe for infants, they need to let customers know so parents can use bottled water.” The dental association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention support municipal water fluoridation. The CDC calls water fluoridation one of the Top 10 Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th century for preventing tooth decay .
The Plateau District’s fluoridation level is within regulatory standards. Voters in the Northeast Sammamish Water & Sewer District rejected fluoridation about 15 years ago.
Joy said she realizes the current concern over fluoride exposure in infants and small children involves fluorosis, which is described as a cosmetic problem, not a-disease.
Her own research, however, indicates scientific concern about fluoride’s effects on people who are more sensitive to the chemical, those with kidney problems and other health issues.
F1uoride is used as a medication in dental treatments and is a naturally occurring substance in some water sources.
A study published in the May 2006 issue of “Cancer Causes and Control” linked exposure to fluoridated water to higher levels of bone cancer in boys, but the study’s scope was limited, not conclusive.
“When you put the substance in the water, there’s no way to control the dosage,” she said. “No one knows how much their children are getting because the exposure is so widespread now.”
On the personal level, Joy said she watches fluoridation issues because the chemical’s long-term and chronic health effects have not been thoroughly researched. More study is needed, but there is enough research so far to cast doubt on its safety, she said.
“Part of it is my own right to choose is being abused,” she said. “And I’m being medicated without my consent – because it is a medication.”