According to the American Dental Association, fluoride promotes healthy tooth development and cavity prevention.

But it is hard to find the proverbial “nine out of 10 dentists” to agree on the controversy concerning municipal water fluoridation.

“There’s a lot of conflicting data out there,” Dr. Melissa Burke, of the dental office of Dr. Jenkins and Dr. Burke DDS, Pottsville, said last week. “We have to look at the kids that come in here individually. There is no blanket policy. Basically the jury is still out.”

Burke said that she is not a member of the ADA and can’t comment on the organization’s policy.

Schuylkill Haven was the last municipality in Schuylkill County to fluoridate its water.

The borough council voted 4-3 to stop adding fluoride to its drinking water during a meeting in Feb. 2010. At the meeting, council President Marlin W. Berger Jr. said the decision would save the borough about $10,000. However, it wasn’t until earlier this year that the borough officially stopped the process, according to borough administrator Scott Graver, because of a voter referendum request from Cressona in May 2010. Cressona is included in the Schuylkill Haven water authority’s service.

“Municipalities are looking at more studies,” Burke said. “Nationally, people are starting to look at it differently.”

Burke said that there was an unofficial study done in Schuylkill Haven a few years ago that revealed children in the borough tended to have less cavities.

Allison Wollyung, Child Development Inc. health services manager, said she did not have dental statistics regarding the socio-economic status of the children treated there beyond her year of service.

“The key is finding the recommended level,” Burke said. “We have to address this on an individual basis. We have an individual plan for everyone that comes to our office for their individual needs.”

Burke said that her office regularly prescribes multivitamins or suggests toothpaste containing fluoride.

“Fluoride is not a nutrient. It’s not essential to healthy teeth,” Carol Kopf, Levittown, N.Y., media director for the Fluoride Action Network, said Wednesday. “Anything that alters the body other than nature intended is the definition of a drug.”

The goal of FAN, a nonprofit online organization, is to broaden public awareness about the toxicity of fluoride compounds and the health impacts of current fluoride exposures. The organization helped spearhead the effort to eliminate sulfuryl fluoride pesticides from the country’s food supply and submitted information to the National Research Council, providing the basis for the council’s 2006 report suggesting that the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standard for fluoride should be lowered.

Currently, the EPA’s enforceable regulation for fluoride is a maximum contaminant level of 4.0 parts per million, with a secondary, non-enforceable suggested standard of 2.0 parts per million.

“Even supporters agree, too much fluoride is a bad thing,” Kopf said. “People drink a lot of water, it’s in everything. When it’s in drinking water, it’s basically impossible to avoid fluoride intake.”

Overexposure to fluoride is known to cause dental fluorosis, a defect of tooth enamel caused by the chemical’s interference with developing teeth resulting in mottled or yellow teeth. Several other studies cited by FAN also associate the chemical with more severe health risks, including skeletal fluorosis, neurological disorders, lowered IQ and cancer.

“The studies are out there,” Kopf said. “I found several studies and was convinced that I didn’t want to raise my kids on this water.”

FAN also argues that adding fluoride to municipal water supply impedes on the medical rights of residents.

“It interferes with an individual’s freedom of choice,” Kopf said. “I see it as a well-meaning, but misguided, effort of dental researchers.”

Before joining FAN, Kopf raised enough awareness about the subject in her hometown that she was able to eliminate the addition of fluoride to the municipal water supply. She has since seen similar situations taking place in cities across the nation.

“The truth is winning out. The Internet allows us to get this information out there and force legislatures to deal with this issue. We are really seeing a domino effect.”

According to 2008 statistics by the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, 64.3 percent of Americans receive fluoridated water. In Pennsylvania, 54.3 percent of state residents receive fluoridated water, tieing the state for 39th highest in the nation.

However, reported approximately 100 communities rejected fluoridation since 2008.

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