Fluoride Action Network

A Precedent?

Source: International Fluoride Information Network | July 30th, 2002

NEW: For those who haven’t heard about it yet, there is good news coming in from Europe. The Belgian Ministry of Health is planning to enact a ban on fluoride supplements. The ban was issued after a study, commissioned by the Ministry, concluded that ingestion of fluoride can cause osteoporosis and damage to the nervous system. See BBC’s coverage at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2161300.stm

As noted in this week’s Red Flags Weekly column (“The Big Lie: Fluoridation Helps the Poor” – http://www.redflagsweekly.com), poor children are particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of fluoride. This is due to the important role that nutrition plays in either mitigating (if adequate) or enhancing (if inadequate) fluoride’s toxicity. Since inadequate nutrition is most prevalent within low-income communities, the poor are at particular risk from fluoridation.

One point not mentioned in the column, however, concerns another whammy that fluoridation presents for the poor, namely, the near impossibility for low-income families to avoid fluoride once it’s put in their water.  This difficulty stems from the prohibitively expensive cost of the filtration equipment (e.g. reverse-osmosis) needed to remove the fluoride.

With this in mind, it is of particular interest to note an interesting development that has occurred in San Antonio, Texas (which will soon begin fluoridation).

The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) recently paid the installation fee for a reverse osmosis filter for Sheryl Pursely, a San Antonio resident whose children have severe dental fluorosis and a hypersensitivity to fluoride. Not only did SAWS pay for the installation fee, but they sought out and found a vendor (Culligans) who would donate the reverse osmosis filter (at a cost of $1,145) to Pursely’s household.

This was revealed in a July 26 article in the San Antonio Express News (see http://news.mysanantonio.com/story.cfm?xla=saen&xlc=768845 ):

“[S]heryl Pursely, a San Antonio resident whose five children are on Medicaid and have a chronic hypersensitivity to fluoride, recently convinced SAWS officials to install an undersink reverse osmosis system at her house. A local vendor donated the $1,145 equipment, and SAWS paid the installation fee of $145.

‘The dentists have told me the kids should not be exposed to fluoride,’ she said, adding that fluoride urinalyses recently showed that the children are ingesting up to 1.56 [mg] of fluoride daily, simply from dietary intake.

Boggess said Pursely approached SAWS officials a number of times, expressing concern about her ability to protect her children. The utility made some calls and found someone willing to donate a system to the family, he said, adding that neither the utility nor the city has adopted any policies that would aid low-income people who may suffer ill effects from fluoride.”
A Precedent?

In paying for the installation of the reverse osmosis filter, SAWS has potentially set an interesting precedent. For, by paying for the installation, the water authority essentially conceded the basic, yet important, point that fluoridation is not for everyone (far from it!), and that some people stand to be affected only adversely by this crude form of delivering medication – a medication (systemic fluoride) which Belgium has just banned.

As the recent Nobel Laureate in Medicine (2000), Dr. Arvid Carlsson, recently stated:

“Fluoridation of water supplies would treat people who may not benefit from the treatment. Side-effects cannot be excluded and, thus, some people might only have negative effects without any benefit.” (See http://www.fluoridealert.org/news/carlsson.htm )
This is particularly true in today’s environment where many people, like Pursely’s children, receive excessive amounts of fluoride even in the absence of water fluoridation.

Other sources of fluoride, besides tap water, include fluoridated toothpaste, fluoridated pesticide residues, and processed foods and drinks made with fluoridated water (e.g. sodas, reconstituted juices, & beers). See http://www.fluoridealert.org/f-juice.htm

It is perhaps because of the precedent-setting potential of SAWS action, that some controversy has arisen recently from the San Antonio Express News’ article.

Apparently, SAWS has asked the reporter, Jerry Needham, to retract the statement that SAWS paid for Pursely’s installation fee.

Pursely, however, has a tape recording (which she’s making available to the reporter) of a representative from Culligan, Bob Hunter, stating that SAWS did indeed pay for the installation. In the recording, Culligan’s Bob Hunter clearly states: “SAWS paid for the installation so you won’t be billed for anything for the installation or the r/o unit.”

So, why is SAWS trying to get the Express News to make a retraction?

Meanwhile, in light of the complications that fluoridation provides for families like Sheryl Pursely, and in light of the financial burdens it creates for families by increasing the rates of aesthetically objectionable dental fluorosis, it may be worth noting a recent study (1999) sponsored by the US Air Force.

The question which the Air Force study sought to answer was: “Does the Presence of Water Fluoridation Alter the Use of Dental Preventive Services on United States Air Force Bases?”

The conclusion?

“The presence or lack of water fluoridation on the sampled United States Air Force bases was not associated, at any level of significance of 0.05, with any utilization rate differences of the studied preventive procedures. The procedures studied included the following: topical fluoride application, pit and fissure sealants, oral hygiene instruction, hygiene and soft tissue indices, diet planning, adult prophylaxis, and fluoride carriers/mouth protectors.”
In other words, fluoridation did not reduce dental treatment on the Air Force bases studied.

(The abstract of this study is available at: http://graylit.osti.gov/cgi-bin/dexpldcgi?qry1317659059;15 ,
while the complete paper is available – as a pdf file – at http://handle.dtic.mil/100.2/ADA359081 )

This isn’t, of course, much of a surprise considering the growing volume of evidence showing water fluoridation to be grossly ineffective, and the emerging consensus within the dental research community that fluoride has little, if any, benefit when swallowed – which is one of the reasons why Belgium is planning on banning fluoride supplements. (See http://www.fluoridealert.org/f-teeth.htm )

Nonetheless, it does help highlight the observations made recently by Douglas Carnall, Associate Editor of the British Medical Journal. Carnall, after reviewing York University’s systematic review of fluoridation for the British Government, stated:

“The systematic review published this week shows that much of the evidence for fluoridation was derived from low quality studies, that its benefits may have been overstated, and that the risk to benefit ratio for the development of the commonest side effect (dental fluorosis, or mottling of the teeth) is rather high.” (See http://www.fluoridealert.org/d-carnall.htm )

In light of this “rather high” “risk to benefit ratio”, Carnall conceded that:

“Previously neutral on the issue, I am now persuaded by the arguments that those who wish to take fluoride (like me) had better get it from toothpaste rather than the water supply.”

Due to the high “risk to benefit ratio” of fluoridation, it is particularly important that people (like Sheryl Pursely’s children) who are already receiving too much fluoride from other sources, have a means of accessing non-fluoridated water.

Indeed, it would seem imperative that any governing body mandating fluoridation of an entire community’s water supply provide an “escape route” for any and all families receiving too much fluoride. While this would increase the cost of fluoridation, and make it a far more complicated process, it would put such governing bodies more in align with the recommendation given by the World Health Organization, that:

“Dental and public health administrators should be aware of the total fluoride exposure in the population before introducing any additional fluoride programme for caries prevention.” (Fluorides and Oral Health, WHO, 1994).

In closing, it’s perhaps most fitting to end with a message from Sheryl Pursely (see below). While reading Pursely’s message, a basic question to keep in mind is: should a kid, such as Pursely’s, whose teeth have been severely damaged by fluoride (through ingestion of toothpaste), be forced to consume yet more fluoride through their water supply?

(According to an article in The Progressive magazine, “The Public Health Service estimates that nearly half a million American schoolchildren suffer from mild or severe dental fluorosis” (see http://www.fluoridealert.org/progressive-1990.htm )  In other words, some 500,000 children in the US (a pretty conservative estimate) have the same type of fluoride-induced damage to their teeth as Pursely’s kids.)

Note from Sheryl Pursely :

“The story would not be complete without me saying that our mayor, Ed Garza, told me, before he was elected, that he had spoken to San Antonio Water System (SAWS) already and had told them that they had to come up with a plan to provide free or low cost reverse osmosis units for poor families who cannot drink fluoridated water due to medical reasons. In all honesty I think he was telling me a tall tale. You see, I have been calling San Antonio Water System for the past couple of years, ever since our mayor, Ed Garza, told me that interesting bit of news. San Antonio Water System tells me there is no plan, never was. I was told it would be too expensive. (Think on that for just a minute..see if you get it…) Anyway our mayor, Ed Garza, despite my asking, refuses to meet my children and see for himself what fluoride can do to a childs teeth….

The dentist, Dr. Esther Bonilla  has told me that Sterling, my son, needs stainless steel caps to protect his teeth from further damage. She said also that he needs microabrasion, cosmetic veneers and bleaching at costs of 500.00 a tooth. Medicaid will not pay for porcelain and will not pay for anything else. She says my 11 yr. old daughter Ariana also needs treatment that is not covered. My question is, if they pay for the cost of the fluoride why won’t they pay for the damage that it does?

The pediatric dentist my son saw at the UTHSC for his pictures is Dr. Peter Trevino. He told me he and Dr. Kevin Donley treat a lot of children with dental fluorosis there. They do the bleaching, cosmetic veneers, and the microabrasion. When my son was there last Dr. Trevino said that he needed to order more gel for the microabrasion for Sterling because they ran out. He said it should be in in June. My son last saw him in may.  He also stated that he wasn’t sure if it would be very effective for sterling due to the severity of the damage his teeth have suffered. He said the damage may be too deep. This echoes what Dr. Esther Bonilla told me as well.

I know…I do go on…but you see these are my children, I’m their mom. It’s my job.”

Michael Connett

p.s. To see pictures of what moderate to severe dental fluorosis looks like, see http://www.fluoridealert.org/dental-fluorosis.htm