Sixty years ago the U.S. Center for Disease Control proposed that fluoride be added to drinking water to prevent cavities. In December 2009, the Austin Environmental Board recommended that city council evaluate the costs and benefits of water fluoridation. In July 2010, Austin Health and Human Services warned mothers not to give fluoridated water to infants if they were concerned about dental fluorosis. In November 2010, Fluoride Free Austin brought Dr. Paul Connett, the world’s leading expert on water fluoridation and author of the book “The Case Against Fluoride”, to Austin to speak with city council and Dr. Huang of HHS. No action was taken by either council or HHS.
In January 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed what Fluoride Free Austin members had been saying for years, that there is too much fluoride in America’s drinking water and that fluorosilicic acid is causing dental fluorosis, a white or brown spotting of the teeth caused by ingesting fluoride. (Look closely at the teeth of five people you know and you will likely see at least one case of fluorosis). According to CDC statistics, 41 percent of children 12-15 years old in the United States suffer from fluorosis. In January2011, the EPA and HHS reduced its recommendation for the maximum levels of fluoride in drinking water from 1.2 parts per million to .7 ppm.
Today in Austin:
Council member Randi Shade, who is up for re-election this May, brought up the issue of fluoride to the Health and Human Services board. Last semester I asked Shade at an LBJ brown-bag why she had not acted upon the environmental board’s recommendation to investigate fluoride. She said that it was not important to her. Shade recently changed her mind and decided that she wanted more information on fluoride, and she got it from Austin’s best and brightest.
Ten members of Fluoride Free Austin testified on the detrimental effects of water fluoridation: Nine were professionals with advanced degrees, including two dentists, a dental hygenist, a chemist, a pharmacist, a nutritionist, an environmental scientist, a PhD/MD and a medical doctor.
Testimony at Council
Dr. Neil Carman, PhD in environmental science, began the expert testimony by discussing the chemical used to fluoridate Austin’s city water, fluorosilicic acid. “The chemical that Austin adds to the water is an industrial toxic waste … EPA says there are no health studies proving the safety of this chemical.”
Others told personal stories. Dr. Laura Pressley, PhD in Chemistry, told the story of her Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a thyroid disease linked to ingestion of fluoride. After removing fluoride completely from her diet, her thyroid disease went into remission. Katie Brewer, a mother, said that when her first child was born she didn’t know that tap water could cause dental fluorosis. As a result her daughter now has white and brown spots on her teeth. “Other mothers don’t know that fluoridated water can hurt their children’s teeth. You need to tell them,” Brewer pleaded.
If there is a chance that the medicine governments are dispensing in the drinking water supply is potentially harming citizens and causing hypothyroidism, and the CDC admits that fluoridation is causing dental fluorosis in 41% of adolescents, why is Austin City Council medicating everyone? Why does Austin City Council permit fluorosilicic acid, an industrial waste product, to be dumped into Austin’s drinking water knowing that the CDC warns that infants and those with kidney issues should not drink fluoridated water?
Even those who financially benefit from water fluoridation spoke out against the practice. Bill Swail, founder of the People’s Pharmacy in Austin, testified, “I am really shooting myself in the foot, because fluoride decreases thyroid gland activity. So we sell a lot of thyroid medication.”
Dr. Griffin Cole, a practicing dentist for 18 years, asked Dr. Huang of HHS, “If the chemical used for fluoridation is so safe, why doesn’t the EPA allow it to be dumped into landfills?” Dr. Cole also criticized the “science” behind water fluoridation. “There has never been one single randomized controlled study that demonstrates the effectiveness of water fluoridation.”
Dr. Cole was the only dentist interviewed for an ABC national news story on the CDC’s decreasing the recommended levels of fluoride in drinking water. Dr. Cole also appeared on the UT radio show Lone Star Politics. He said that cases of dental fluorosis were rare in his practice just 10 years ago, but now he sees them every day – and a tooth with dental fluorosis is much more expensive to repair than a cavity.
Dr. Cole concluded his remarks to City Council with the following quote from the American Dental Association in 1944:
“We do know the use of drinking water containing as little as 1.2 to 3.0 ppm of fluorine will cause such developmental disturbances in bones as osteosclerosis, spondylosis, and osteopetrosis, as well as goiter (a thyroid disorder), and we cannot afford to run the risk of producing such serious systemic disturbances…”
There was only one person not working for the city who testified in favor of fluoridation, a representative of the American Dental Association, who did not cite one scientific study or provide one piece of evidence.
Council member Laura Morrison asked Dr. Huang how the dose of fluoride bottle-fed infants receive could be controlled. Dr. Huang responded that babies don’t drink that much water compared to adults. He failed to mention that the blood-brain barrier in infants is not formed until six months of age, and that infants who are bottle-fed are very vulnerable to the fluoridated water.
I recommend that Austin City Council immediately stop water fluoridation until council follows the environmental board’s recommendation conduct an independent investigation on fluoride, similar to the recent study done by Fairbanks, Alaska. The longer City Council recklessly continues to fluoridate the water, the more Austin children will develop dental fluorosis.
City Council should also require the water utility to put a warning on water bills, telling mothers that giving fluoridated tap water to infants can cause dental fluorosis.
Fluoridation is an urgent issue and needs council’s attention now. Please call the members of the HHS Board for City Council, thank Randi Shade for bringing up fluoride and for allowing extra citizen’s communication at the meeting, and please ask them to take action immediately and investigate fluoride.
Randi Shade (up for re-election): (512) 974-2255
“I know about using the non-fluoridated water with infants”
Mike Martinez: (512) 974-2264
“There are bigger issues to be dealt with.”
Laura Morrison (up for re-election): (512) 974-2258
“I don’t have the bandwidth for this issue.”
Bill Spellman: (512)974-2256
“I need time to study the materials.”
Expert Testimony part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_YhRn3CNBc
Expert Testimony part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxMKnjXbDYU
Quotes from council members are taken from www.fluoridefreeaustin.com
Austin Health and Human Services warning to mothers: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/water/fluoride.htm
For more information on fluoride go to: http://www.fluoridealert.org/
Robert W. B. Love Jr. is is a first year student in the Master’s of Public Affairs program at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also an editor for the LBJ Journal of Public Affairs and the Baines Report.