Fluoride Action Network

Amesbury: Fluoride concerns are worth probing

Source: The Daily News (Newburyport) | January 25th, 2010 | Editorial

Title of editorial:Flouride [sic] concerns are worth probing

It’s clearly a controversial thing to do, but Amesbury’s Robert Desmarais deserves credit for taking the path of caution when it comes to public health.

Desmarais, the director of the town’s Department of Public Works, has been concerned about residue left over in the town’s water system by sodium fluoride powder that the town uses to add fluoride to its water. The town stopped adding the powder in April and still has concerns about what that residue contains. When the powder is put into the water system, about 40 percent of it doesn’t dissolve as it should.

There’s good reason to be concerned. The sodium fluoride comes from China, which doesn’t have a particularly good track record when it comes to consumer product safety. Whether its lead in toys or poison in necklaces and toothpaste, China has been lax in enforcing the kinds of safety rules that we would expect our own nation’s industries to adhere to. Fluoride used to be produced by American or Japanese companies, but they’ve been undersold by Chinese suppliers. Desmarais and others have pointed out that the residue wasn’t present until the product was imported from China.

Amesbury has tested the residue and has not been able to determine what it is, thus the reason for halting the use of it.

Amesbury is hardly alone in expressing concerns. Water plant operators across the nation have noted this residue. Many have kept using it. Amesbury appears to be in the small minority that has stopped.

Desmarais has taken some knocks for halting fluoridation, but his basic concern — determining what is in this residue — is legitimate and responsible.

The Massachusetts Department of Health had no idea; in fact, it referred phone calls to the The Centers for Disease Control, the nation’s clearinghouse for our health and safety. The CDC says that the residue is safe, though tests continue to be done on it, and the precise composition of the residue hasn’t been determined. That doesn’t seem like an adequate endorsement, considering the fact that millions of Americans are exposed to this compound.

Fluoride has long been used to help fight tooth decay, and its benefits in this area are well documented. Naturally, there are concerns in town that Amesburyites aren’t getting their proper fluoride protection. Residents would be well advised to seek their own source of fluoride, which can be found in anti-cavity mouth rinses, toothpastes and the like.

And in the meantime, the CDC and the state should put more emphasis on finding out what this substance is and whether there is a health risk.

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See also

• January 25, 2010: Feds note fluoride problems

• Jan 19, 2010: Amesbury: Town halts use in water supply, seeks solutions

• April 17, 2009: Amesbury discontinues fluoridation due to difficulty in obtaining sodium fluoride