The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated unequivocally that water fluoridation is “one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.”
Why then are some communities fighting to remove the chemical from the public water supply?
Nanette Degroat, a resident of the Village of Walden, has organized a public informational meeting for this Thursday, May 2, to answer that question and others in advance of a decision by the Walden Village Board on whether or not to resume fluoridating the village water.
“They are medicating us without our permission. That’s a huge problem,” said Degroat.
Two years ago the board voted to reintroduce fluoride into the water supply, but work on the plant and storms delayed that action. The cost of adding the fluoride—about $4,000—was included in the village budget recently adopted. The village was on track to resume fluoridation of the village water this spring, but after objections from the public the Village Board decided to place a moratorium until a Town Hall meeting could be held on the debate.
According to the CDC, “nearly all naturally occurring water sources contain fluoride—a mineral that has been proven to prevent, and even reverse, tooth decay.” The fluoride helps to remineralize tooth surfaces and prevents cavities from continuing to form.
Water fluoridation is promoted as a way to prevent tooth decay by providing teeth with frequent contact with low levels of fluoride throughout each day and throughout life, regardless of age, income, education, or socioeconomic status.
Despite the promoted benefits however, communities are opting to forego fluoridation—including some just a few miles away across the Hudson River. In 2008, the Poughkeepsie Joint Water Board voted unanimously to remove it from the water supply which served approximately 80,000 residents in the City and Town of Poughkeepsie as well as residents of Hyde Park and Wappingers Falls.
Degroat explained that many studies are showing that fluoride has negative health impacts and the recommended levels for community water are on a downward track, but organizations like the CDC and American Dental Association (ADA) have been slow to moderate their promotion of fluoride.
“It would be insane if they went back on their word now. It would be tremendously humiliating and embarrassing to say the least,” said Degroat. “But the evidence is so clear.”
Degroat said she is not against topical use for dental purposes, but the damage done when it is ingested is what she is concerned about.
Walden dentists Peter V. Masci, DDS and Timothy E. Hale, DMD, have issued a statement repudiating the information Degroat has been giving out, calling the websites provided “rogue sites that lack government or public health backing” and recommended that the public visit the ADA’s website.
“All community water contains fluoride naturally,” noted Masci and Hale in their statement. “Water fluoridation only adjusts that amount to 0.7 mg/liter, which has been proven to be safe and effective in reducing tooth decay. This public health measure has been endorsed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, the Academy of Pediatrics and dozens of other well-respected health organizations.”
They went on to state that contrary to what opponents of fluoridation have said, the ADA has not warned parents to use non-fluoridated water when mixing infant formula, but rather that the ADA has branded it as safe.
The CDC however, has warned that “if your child is exclusively consuming infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water, there may be an increased chance for mild dental fluorosis,” an observation repeated by the ADA on their website.
Opponents of fluoridation however, point to a Harvard study published last July in the online federal government medical journal “Environmental Health Perspectives” which stated that fluoride lowers IQ in children.
“Children in high fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low fluoride areas,” the 32-page study concluded. “The results suggest that fluoride may be a developmental neurotoxicant that affects brain development at exposures much below those that can cause toxicity in adults.”
Further supporting that conclusion, the EPA has listed fluoride as a chemical “with substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.”
The crux of the matter seems to be everything in moderation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that fluoride be added to the water at no greater than 0.7 milligrams per liter to help prevent tooth decay. Presently, the natural fluoride levels in Walden’s wells vary greatly but come nowhere near the high levels of the Harvard study. Readings taken in February indicated the wells fluctuated from as low as .15 to a high of .48. Even at these levels, however, the village has reported cases of dental fluorosis in their children.
Degroat noted that people also come into contact with fluoride from a multitude of sources including toothpaste, mouthwash and their food and anything else they might make with their water.
“I’m not taking away their choice by not putting more of it in the water. They can get it from multiple sources including their doctor if they want their children to be exposed to it,” said Degroat.
Degroat’s informational meeting will be held this Thursday, May 2, at 7 p.m. at Victory! Church of God, 4 Scofield Street in Walden.
A Town Hall meeting will be held by the Village Board on Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m. at the Village Hall. Mayor Brian Maher stated that he is inviting spokespersons from the CDC and Department of Health. The Village Board is expected to make a decision after this meeting on whether they should stick with the natural fluoride levels or add additional fluoride to the village water.