Nearly two-thirds of Americans — 194 million people — get fluoridated water from the tap. I’ve been one of them, drinking fluoridated Rutland City water for 30 years with only mild concern.
I thought it was perfectly safe. I thought I didn’t really need it because of regular brushing and flossing, but I accepted it anyway. A sense that fluoridation would help poor people unable to pay for or neglectful of their own dental care helped me accept fluoridation.
Over the last year, with the nudging of local anti-fluoride activist Kathleen Krevetski, research convinced me not only to oppose fluoridation but to try to stop it. I now believe fluoridation of the water supply is ineffective, unsafe and unethical and doesn’t help the poor. My wife and I now drink bottled water.
Fortunately, the foundations beneath public water fluoridation today look shaky, for good reason. A wealth of credible evidence has become available to inform and energize a growing army of anti-fluoride activists. In particular, the 2010 book, “The Case Against Fluoride,” by Paul Connett, James Beck and H.S. Micklem, pulls together information from many sources to buttress the claims that fluoridation is ineffective, unsafe and unethical.
One cannot read “The Case Against Fluoride,” available at the Rutland Free Library, without acknowledging its seriousness of purpose, moderate tone, and thorough research. Hundreds of footnotes and lists of scientific studies testify to its rigor.
Connett, a retired chemistry professor at St. Lawrence University, has continued to lead the charge against fluoridation with public appearances and leadership of the Fluoride Action Network. FAN offers an excellent website, fluoridealert.org, with a wealth of old and new evidence challenging the pro-fluoridation establishment.
Fluoridealert.org updates regularly with new studies, media coverage and political developments on the fluoridation front. Recent important news has included a report of the Cochrane Oral Health Group, a network of health care professionals, researchers and consumers that reviews and evaluates scientific research. Cochrane found no credible science to show fluoridation to be effective, thereby bolstering point one: Fluoridation is ineffective.
Earlier this year came three significant developments that support point two: the unsafe nature of fluoridation. They were:
1) The Department of Health and Human Services lowered its recommended level of water fluoridation to 0.7 parts per million from a range of 0.7 to 1.2 ppm, acknowledging the risk of dental mottling at the higher levels.
2) The Journal of Community Health and Epidemiology published a study showing that higher levels of fluoride in drinking water proved a good predictor of under-active thyroid. Newsweek covered the story.
3) A study in the journal Environmental Health showed a strong correlation between water fluoridation and the prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Again, Newsweek picked up the story.
How about the ethical issue? Is fluoridation unethical?
The American Dental Association and the Vermont Health Department blithely say that fluoridation is simply the adjustment of a naturally occurring nutrient in the water to an optimal level. They would compare it to adding Vitamin D to milk.
Some fluoride occurs naturally in water, but not fluorosilicic acid. The latter is the hazardous waste by-product Rutland buys from a Florida fertilizer plant and puts in our water.
Fluoride a nutrient? I don’t think so. The Food and Drug Administration calls it a drug, not an approved one at that. The EPA calls it a “contaminant.” As the saying goes, “Just because the kittens were born in the oven, it doesn’t make ’em muffins.”
When ingested, fluoride is biologically active in the body. It collects in the bone and pineal gland. It affects hormones and enzymes. It makes changes in the body; if that’s not a drug, what is? Medical ethics dictates that the patient have informed consent. There is no informed consent with fluoridation.
On top of all that, the dose of fluoride consumed by drinkers of city water varies widely. Laborers, diabetics and athletes are likely to drink more water, perhaps four times more, than a typical person, thereby getting four times the dose. Further, those with kidney problems may filter out less of the fluoride. The normal amount for discharge in the urine is believed to be about half. If the kidneys don’t do their job, more fluoride accumulates in the body.
Along with the above facts about the effectiveness, risk, and ethics of fluoridation, a social fact emerges. Fluoridation doesn’t help the poor. Blacks and Mexican-Americans suffer more dental fluorosis that whites, as confirmed by the CDC. Leaders like Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta and an associate of Martin Luther King Jr., have come out in opposition to fluoridation. Meanwhile epidemics of tooth decay in places like Detroit, a fluoridated city, point to the failure of fluoridation as a remedy for tooth decay among the poor.
Good nutrition and dental care are the way to combat tooth decay in Rutland.
Jack Crowther has lived in Rutland since 1968 and is a retired journalist and writer for business. He manages the website rutlandfluorideaction.org.