Fluoride Action Network

EPA Unions Call on Agency, Congress To Recognize Carcinogenicity of Fluoride

Source: Occupational Safety & Health Daily | September 1st, 2005 | By Patricia Ware

Unions representing Environmental Protection Agency employees and other public health professionals have asked Congress to impose a nationwide moratorium on drinking water flouridation programs and called on EPA to set a goal of reducing the amount of fluoride in drinking water based on evidence it is associated with cancer.

The request, set forth in letters to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and to House and Senate committees released by the unions Aug. 30, is predicated on newly discovered Harvard research that links fluoride to a type of bone cancer, William Hirzy, vice president of Chapter 280 of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), told BNA. The letters were dated Aug. 5.

The unions’ request is based on “startling and disturbing new information” that a Harvard University study shows a connection between fluoride and osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer that afflicts young boys, according to the letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The letter to Johnson called on EPA to issue an advance notice of proposed rulemaking setting a nonenforceable public health goal of zero for fluoride in drinking water. The purpose of the advance notice is to notify the public of the research linking fluoride to cancer, Hirzy said.

The unions also asked EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement to investigate why the Harvard research showing the link between fluoride and cancer remained hidden from EPA for four years.

EPA officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment on the request.

The unions that have signed the letters include local chapters of the American Federation of Government Employee/Service Employees International Union, the National Association of Government Employees, the California/International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, and the NTEU.

Fluoride in U.S. water supplies has been used to control tooth decay since the mid-1940s. The U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) shortly thereafter developed recommendations regarding fluoride concentrations in public water supplies, and the practice has become commonplace. Most science groups–including the National Academy of Sciences–have said it is safe. However, fluoridation has also drawn strong criticism over possible adverse health effects of fluoride.
Letters Sent to Congress, EPA.

The unions wrote to the congressional committees asking them to legislate a moratorium on the national program of the Public Health Service to fluoridate all U.S. drinking water supplies.

In their letter to Johnson, the unions said an EPA maximum contaminant level goal for fluoride in drinking water at zero would be “in accordance with Agency policy for all likely or known carcinogens.”

EPA sets enforceable maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) based on the health-based goals. In the mid-1980s, EPA set both a goal and an MCL for fluoride of 4 milligrams per liter

An advance notice of proposed rulemaking would inform the public and local health authorities of the results of the Harvard research without committing EPA to a formal rulemaking until other actions are taken, the unions’ letter said.

In July, Harvard began an investigation of one of its dental professors for alleged misrepresentation of research showing a connection between fluoridated drinking water and osteosarcoma.

Chester Douglass, chairman of the Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, published research finding no such association. However, Douglass, the editor-in-chief of a journal published by Colgate Palmolive, referenced work supporting his finding that in fact showed that fluoridated water was associated with an elevated risk of osteosarcoma.

“With the uncovering of the sequestration of the Harvard epidemiology study, we’ve been able to persuade 10 other EPA unions to join us,” Hirzy said. The 11 union locals represent over 7,000 public health officials across the United States.
EPA Awaiting Report.

Because of research during the past 10 years, EPA has decided to review its rule for fluoride in drinking water and asked the National Research Council to conduct a review on the safety of the EPA standard. EPA expects a report in 2006.

Meanwhile, “it seems highly inappropriate for EPA to do nothing now that it is in possession of this science, while millions of young boys continue to be exposed unwittingly to the elevated risk of a fatal bone cancer as the Agency waits for the [National Research Council] to issue its report, then for the report to undergo a peer review, and then for the Agency to undertake its own deliberations,” the letter said.

Labor organizations that signed the letters include six chapters of the American Federation of Government Employees, located in Washington, D.C., Boston; New York; Philadelphia; Ada, Okla.; and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Three chapters of the NTEU located in Cincinnati, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., also signed the letters, as did the San Francisco chapter of Engineers and Scientists of California/International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of Government Employees.