Starting next October, the water coming to Malibu taps from the Metropolitan Water District via the West Basin Municipal Water District will be fluoridated. This is in compliance with a state regulation passed in 1995 that mandates fluoridation of large public water systems if funding sources outside of cities can be found.
And there are some who are not happy about it.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in water and, in minimal concentrations, has shown overwhelming evidence of preventing tooth decay. More than 66 percent of the country’s municipal districts add fluoride to local water sources to up the concentration, and have seen the rates of cavities in children in those cities decline.
But opponents of the plan cite a multitude of grievances, from studies claiming fluoride is a toxin that can cause liver and brain damage, osteoporosis and thyroid disorders, to cries of government fluoridation conspiracies benefiting corporate interests, to libertarian declarations that civil rights are being trampled.
Cynthia Emminger is one local concerned citizen who wants to throw a spotlight on what she feels is a “very controversial” practice-cities’ fluoridation of water supplies on a population that has no alternative water source. “No one should be forced to drink or bathe in additives that you have the right to avoid,” she said.
Emminger, a former emergency medical technician, cited several sources for her fluoride alarm.
“Some people are allergic to fluoride and their kidneys don’t process it well,” she said. “Studies have linked fluoride to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and dental fluorosis (a condition where tooth enamel fails to crystallize to permanent teeth). People don’t know what they are putting in their bodies when they drink a glass of water.”
So why, in the face of such evident detrimental effect on public health, is the DWP adding fluoride to our water?
Because, the Center for Disease Control, states, “Water fluoridation is one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.”
The American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the World Health Organization echoed this confidence in fluoride’s benefits.
Interest in water fluoridation began in the early part of the 20th century when a Dr. Frederick McKay conducted a study that noted children from regions of Colorado, whose water had extremely high concentrations of fluoride, had markedly fewer cavities, although their teeth appeared to be stained in what is now known as “dental fluorosis.”
McKay’s study determined that a good public health goal would be warning communities with high concentrations of fluoride of the prospect of the “Colorado stain,” while encouraging communities with low concentrations of naturally occurring fluoride to increase levels to help prevent tooth decay.
Much research has been conducted on the practice, with the benefits and disadvantages of water fluoridation being hotly debated.
Christopher Bryson, in his book titled, “The Fluoride Deception,” claims that studies on safety standards for fluoridation were “fraudulent” and skewed toward the interests of corporate stockholders of companies with vested interest in the practice.
He even claimed that the directors of The Manhattan Project ordered studies of the effect of fluoridation, apparently a component of nuclear devices, on human populations before creating the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
David Green, a professor of chemistry at Pepperdine University in Malibu, acknowledges there will be a loud minority who object to local water fluoridation because of possibly negative outcomes.
“But they are talking about the effects of very high concentrations of fluoride, not the one to four milligrams-per-liter that a city aims for,” he said. “The bottom line is that, when you look at the fact that a certain amount of fluoride in the water categorically reduces the incidence of dental decay in an entire population, fluoride additives are a good thing.”
Green agrees that fluoride can attribute to neurological change and can convert bones’ chemistry to promote brittleness. “But only in high, high concentrations,” he said.
Emminger maintains that fluoride is evident in many sources and that the city cannot know how much of the mineral its children may be exposed to. “There’s toothpaste, mouthwash and other sources,” she said. “To force a kid to drink even more fluoride exposes him to even more danger.”
Green was dubious about Emminger’s claims. “A kid would have to drink a lot of fluoridated water for it to reach any level of toxicity,” he said.
In fact, bottled water companies, such as Dannon, have started to add fluoride to some of their products because people drink less tap water.
“Look,” Green said. “The British Dental Association agrees with our CDC, AMA and ADA that the benefits of fluoridated water far outweigh the risks in a general population. Fluoride makes for stronger teeth. Should poor people be denied the inarguable health benefits of fluoridation when it costs so little?”
The average cost for a community the size of Los Angeles County to fluoridate its water is about 62 cents per person annually.
Emminger is not as sanguine about the prospect of fluoridated water flowing from her tap. “Sure, you can buy bottled water to drink,” she said. “But fluoride is absorbed in other ways.”
Meanwhile, the DWP is sending out notices to all its customers soon regarding the fluoridation program, stating clearly, “The concentration of fluoride in your water will be well below the limit set by the California Department of Health Services and the EPA.”