The city of San Diego began adding fluoride to its water supply Tuesday.

Fluoridation will be implemented over the course of the next month, starting with treatment plants in Miramar and La Mesa before coming to the Otay Water Treatment Plant in mid-February.

Initially scheduled to begin Dec. 22, the process was delayed for more training, said Arian Collins with San Diego Public Utilities.

Experts contend that fluoride benefits dental health, while critics claim too much fluoride can cause cancer, among other health risks.

The Envirornmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced plans for new recommendation standards in December 2010 to change the maximum amount from 1.2 to 0.7 milligrams per litre, the current minimum.

Previous federal recommendation levels were set by the U.S. Public Health Service in 1962. With the influx of dental products, fluoride supplements and fluoride treatments, there is a larger consumption of fluoride and factors in determining the lower fluoride levels, authorities said.

San Diego water is expected to have 0.8 milligrams per litre, Collins said. San Diego’s water supply is already partially fluoridated since 9 percent of the city’s water comes from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Collins said whether fluoride is good or bad for a person’s health wasn’t for him to decide. “That discussion happened on the state level when they passed the law. We really haven’t concerned ourselves with that,” he said.

“I had no idea about that, with the water,” said Imperial Beach resident William Morris. “But I don’t know. I’d like to believe the city is looking out for us. Plus you figure if it’s really that bad you’d see problems in other parts of the country. I’m not too concerned.”

New federal recommendations are scheduled to be published in the Federal Registrar this spring [published on January 13, 2011]. Afterwards, the general public will have 30 days to comment by e-mailing

A mineral, fluoride occurs naturally in most water but the first effort to add fluoride to the American water supply was in 1945 in Grand Rapids, MI.

California state law requires water fluoridation for water agencies with more than 10,000 water service connections.

Fluoridation in San Diego is funded by $3.9 million from First 5 Commission of San Diego County, which approved the allocation of funds in November 2007 in a unanimous vote.

“The EPA’s new analysis will help us make sure that people benefit from tooth decay prevention while at the same time avoiding the unwanted health effects from too much fluoride,” said Peter Silva, the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Water.

Approximately 70 percent of Americans drink and shower in fluoridated water every day.

First 5 Commission of San Diego County states in its Community Water Fluoridation Fact Sheet that, “Community water fluoridation is considered the safest, most effective, cost-effective and equitable means to provide protection from tooth decay in a community. In addition, it protects teeth and bones from infancy to old age.”

The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) suggested that fluoride levels be reduced to 0.7 ppm (parts per million) 14 years ago. [sic: 14 years ago public health dentists recommended that fluoride levels be reduced to 0.7 ppm.]

Its report states that 41 percent of adolescents 12-15 have dental fluorosis (streaking or staining of teeth due to excess floride), more than 100 studies show fluoride damages animal brains and 24 studies conducted show “association between exposure to moderate-to-high levels of fluoride and lowered IQ in children.”

African-Americans suffer disproportionate amounts of kidney disease, diabetes and disfiguring teeth damage from fluoride compared to whites, said Daniel Stockin with The Lillie Center Inc.

“I know the facts are embarrassing and potentially even lawsuit material against CDC, but it’s not morally right that CDC is not telling African-Americans of their multiple, intersecting risks for harm from fluoride,” said Stockin, a public health professional whose firm works to educate Americans about harm from ingested fluorides.

“How does CDC continue to say that fluoridated water is safe and effective ‘for all’? Do African-Americans not count?”

As part of new standards, the ADA and CDC now suggests “parents of newborns may wish to consider using unfluoridated water when mixing infant formula for their babies.”

FAN said the CDC does no outreach to inform parents or funds to pay for minority and low-income family alternative sources of water. FAN claims the controversial chemical fluoride is having harmful effects in black communities.

Water fluoridation is endorsed by the American Dental Association (ADA), a part of the association’s policy since 1950. ADA released a statement commending the new government recommendations and said, “The ADA will continue advocating for community water fluoridation at the proposed levels.”

“We applaud the HHS for reaffirming the safety and efficacy of optimal community water on their side,” said Dr. Raymond F. Gist, president of the American Dental Association.”

Dr. Charles Gordon Heyd, former president of the American Medical Association said, “I am appalled at the prospect of using water as a vehicle for drugs. Fluoride is a corrosive poison that will produce serious effects on a long-range basis. Any attempt to use water this way is deplorable.”

Dr. Donald W. Miller Jr., professor of surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a member of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, said fluoride is absorbed through the skin and inhaled when taking a shower and when washing clothes with fluoridated water.

He said fluoride is used in community grade sodium fluoride or natural calcium fluoride. Miller said promoters are pushing for mandatory statewide fluoridation in various states, but said “meanwhile there is growing evidence that shows fluoride damages health.”

Graig Graziosi and Khari Johnson contributed to this report.