In the Eisenhower era, right-wing crackpots portrayed water fluoridation as a sinister communist conspiracy. Today, fluoridation phobia has found a new political home among a vocal segment of environmentalists.
When environmental activists formed a group calling itself the Fluoride Action Network in May 2000, they quickly stooped to characterizing fluoridation as “medication without consent,” a phrase that sounds remarkably like John Birch Society rhetoric circa 1959.
But the group’s Web site goes even further, resorting to an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink strategy in depicting alleged dangers, from toxicity to brittle bones to joint damage – even decreased IQ. (One wonders what the reaction to that claim will be in South Dakota, where 100 percent of the water from public systems is fluoridated.)
Even the Sierra Club has succumbed to anti-fluoridation hysteria. In September, the environ-mental group formally voiced concern on the matter, saying there are “valid concerns regarding the potential adverse impact of fluoridation on the environment, wildlife and human health.”
Such claims haven’t overturned the strong consensus in favor of fluoridation among public health professionals, however. Fluoridation continues to have the firm endorsement of the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization.
In Nebraska, 69 percent of the state’s residents drink fluoridated water. (In Iowa, the percentage is 91 percent.) Omaha has added fluoride to its water since 1969.
The Nebraska Dental Association describes fluoridation as “the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and to improve oral health for a lifetime.” It also says that every $1 invested in fluoridation leads to a $50 savings in dental expenses.
In the 1960s, anti-fluoridation hysteria was given voice in the satirical movie “Dr. Strangelove,” when a character obsessed on how adding the substance would supposedly “impurify all our precious bodily fluids.” It is striking that the same paranoia would be adopted so eagerly by environmentalists at the start of the 21st century. It is also more than a bit pathetic.