Ohio University freshman Ibriham Alassaf first began researching fluoridation his senior year of high school after hearing about it on a radio show, and is pushing City Council to end the practice.
Fluoridation involves adding Hydrofluorosilicic Acid to drinking water. Meant to strengthen children’s teeth, the acid is a by-product of phosphate-based lawn fertilizers. These fertilizers emit multiple gases while being cleaned, which are then converted into the chemical sold to water treatment plants.
Athens has maintained a 0.8 to 1.3 milligrams per liter level of fluoride in its water for ten years – the widely accepted level for healthy drinking water.
Alassaf, a lifelong Athens resident studying history and pre-law, contends there is strong scientific evidence of mild to severe health risks related to fluoride consumption.
Much of this evidence comes from Paul Connet [sic: Connett]. Connet [sic], an Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University in New York, has spent 13 years researching and opposing fluoridation, and City Councilman Elahu Gosney described him as “the world expert on fluoride.”
Connet [sic], along with the anti-fluoride group Fluoride Action Network, contends that consumption of fluoride increases many health risks. Two conditions they say consumption can induce are dental and skeletal fluorsis, which negatively affect tooth development and bone strength, respectively.
Connet [sic] estimated that 32 percent of American children have mild dental fluorsis and said, “Our kids are getting overexposed to fluoride and there’s no two ways about it.”
Despite these contentions, fluoridation still draws strong support from many in the public health community.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, said Deborah Fulks, director of the dental sealant program for the Athens County Health Department.
Fulks said she has seen the difference between children who live in fluoridated communities and those who don’t by their level of tooth decay.
City Councilwoman Nancy Bain, who voted to begin fluoridating city water more than 10 years ago, said she grew up in a fluoridated community and didn’t notice any problems.
Fluoride opponents say the evidence used by the CDC and other pro-fluoride groups is faulty. Connet [sic] pointed out that those who are for fluoride generally have a dental background, whereas it is mainly toxicologists who are against it.
He added that while many claim fluoridation is beneficial at low levels, studies have shown that as low as 1 part per million can increase health risks, and that fluoride should be applied to peoples’ teeth rather than swallowed.
Gosney, who said he is against fluoridation, agreed by saying, “It’s kind of like swallowing suntan lotion to protect against the sun.” He added that he would like to see a resolution for citizens to vote on that would determine the future of Athens fluoridation.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, once a community begins fluoridating its water system, the Ohio EPA forbids it from stopping.
City Law Director Pat Lang is looking into the matter but could not offer comment.