For years, cities and towns have added fluoride to water supply. We’ve been led to believe that fluoride is supposed to make our teeth stronger. But now some scientists are pointing to a growing body of evidence suggesting fluoride could be damaging our teeth, causing cancer and possibly leading to other health problems.
“There is no need to fluoridate the water supplies,” says Dr. Michael Fleming. He’s a Durham dentist who thinks we’re getting far too much fluoride.
“Fluoride in the water is essentially a drug, it’s an uncontrolled use of a drug,” says Dr. Fleming.
Dr. Fleming is on an FDA dental advisory committee but he says these are his opinions.
“The primary benefit of fluoride is topically, used as a topical addition, not internally,” says Dr. Fleming.
Everyone knows fluoride is in your toothpaste and in some mouthwash. But fluoride is also in places you may have never guessed. It’s in soft drinks and beer. Thinking of having orange juice and oatmeal for breakfast? If they’re made with water in a fluoridated community then your breakfast comes with a side of fluoride.
Dr. Fleming says because fluoride is all around us his interest is in controlling the dosing from all sources.
Most communities in the triangle add fluoride to their water supply. The water treatment plant in Raleigh serves more than four hundred thousand people in Wake County. There’s a special room where liquid fluoride is added to the water to keep the level within federal recommendations at about one milligram per liter of water.
But, the fluoride in the water supply could be impacting your health. In 2006, a report by the National Academy of Sciences identified fluoride as a potent hormone disruptor that can affect your thyroid and potentially lower the IQ of children. The report also says some children who drink fluoridated water develop something called fluorosis, a defect in their teeth that causes discoloration and erosion of the enamel.
“I think it’s bad, having it in the water, we don’t know what the results are going to be in the future,” says Ed Daigle. He lives in the western North Carolina city of Brevard. Earlier this year, he led a one man crusade and convinced the city council to stop putting fluoride in the water supply.
“Why take a pristine water supply like we have and add a poison to it? Because it is definitely a poison,” says Daigle.
Last year four Harvard researchers released a study revealing a five fold increase in bone cancer in teenage boys who drank fluoridated water years earlier because the ages of six and eight.
“How have we been lead to believe that fluoride is this wonderful thing that will make us all have bright, white, healthy teeth?” asked Steve Daniels.
“We need to be asking some serious questions,” said Dr. Fleming. “Let’s make the changes that are necessary to fit the science as it’s emerging which tells us that we don’t need to fluoridate the water. We can use topical applications. For heaven’s sake, we can give families the choice,” he continued.
Last year, the American Dental Association or ADA warned parents with babies not to be fluoridated water to mix baby fluoridated water to mix baby water. The ADA says parents should use bottle water instead.
Dr. John Stamm is a professor at the dental school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He doesn’t think we should be worried about fluoride.
“A strong public health program which includes appropriate water fluoridation measures makes a great deal of sense,” says Dr. Stamm.
He supports the American Dental Association which says water fluoridation is the “single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.”
“Every year, water fluoridation is able to prevent billions of dollars in dental care expenditures,” says Dr. Stamm.
But Triangle dentist Mike Fleming isn’t convinced. He wants to see fluoride taken out of the water supply.
“Some people suggest, adding fluoride to the water is like adding sunscreen to the water to help fight skin cancer,” said Steve Daniels.
“I think let’s just keep it topical,” said Dr. Fleming. He continued, “The studies clearly indicate that, that is where the benefit is primarily found. Therefore taking it internally doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The National Academy of Sciences of NAS report also says fluoride accumulates in your bones over time and can increase your risk of breaking bones.
In August, 600 medical, dental and public health professionals sent this letter to congress. They want hearings and research conducted to determine the impact fluoride is having on us.
The American Dental Association reviewed the NAS report and they say the report focused on naturally occurring fluoride in water. They say when water is fluoridated according to guidelines it’s safe and good for dental health.
Some local places that are fluoridated:
Raleigh: Fluoridated, .98 measured at June 2007 test
Cary: Fluoridated, .9 measured last year, most recent reported
Durham: Fluoridated, .98 measured in March
Fayetteville: Fluoridated, .85 measured in January
Johnston County: low level… .46… message left for water system
Orange County: OWASA water is Fluoridated, last reading is .91