A proposal on Beacon Hill would vastly expand the fluoridation of drinking water across Massachusetts. This effort comes at a time when some people are increasingly concerned about fluoridating any water at all.
Tony Vallentine is one of those people. His son Seth died in 1986 when he was just 17 years-old from a rare bone cancer called osteosarcoma. To this day, Tony wonders how it happened, saying “I always had in my mind that it was some sort of environmental influence.”
Could it have been the fluoride added to his drinking water? One report shows a link between this cancer and boys who drink fluoridated water.
Dentists disagree with that finding. Dr. Man Wai Ing says there has been a 20%-40% decline in tooth decay for children who drink fluoridated water. She says the alternative for children can include “pain, swelling, difficulty sleeping, eating, can effect their growth and development, and they can have difficulty learning in school.”
Critics believe that research showing fluoride to be safe, was in fact compromised.
These concerns are being aired as the Massachusetts State Legislature considers a bill expanding fluoridation. If passed, Massachusetts would become the 13th state to have almost total fluoridation.
Right now, about 60% of Bay State residents have fluoride in their water. The bill would take that to well up over 90%. Critics believe that children already get enough fluoride these days and that fluoridation is outdated. They also point to the toxic nature of ingesting large amounts of fluoride.
Dr. Phyllis Mullenix is a toxicologist who has studied fluoridation. She says, “You’re putting a substance in that people are consuming where the dose is not controlled, so that it’s medicine without a controlled dose, and that’s a problem.”
Dr. Raul Garcia, who chairs the health policy department at the Boston University Dental School, has no concerns. He has complete faith in the research conducted over the past 60 years and favors statewide fluoridation. He says, “we are talking about 1 part per million of fluoride in the drinking water; that’s the equivalent of one second in a year.”
Tony Vallentine wants a moratorium. Although he will never know what caused his son Seth’s cancer, he believes it is worth the wait as the National Research Council conducts its analysis of fluoride’s safety. He adds, “when you try to equate the death of a child to osteosarcome with kids not having as many cavities, I don’t think there’s any comparison.”
That report by the National Research Council should be out next year. It is worth re-iterating that most previous studies have concluded that fluoride is safe.