On Nov. 9, the American Dental Association quietly reversed their half-century-old position regarding fluoridated water and baby formula.
In an e-mail statement to dentists, the ADA said, “infants less than 1 year old may be getting more than the optimal amount of fluoride (which may increase their risk of enamel fluorosis).” What is their advice? “If using a product that needs to be reconstituted, parents and caregivers should consider using water that has no or low levels of fluoride.” (Read the ADA statement entitled “Interim Guidance on Reconstituted Infant Formula” at: ada.org/prof/resources/pubs/epubs/egram/egram_061109.pdf)
This change is a step in the right direction. However, this information needs much wider distribution than just to dentists on the ADA’s e-mail list. If we truly are interested in protecting infants, this recommendation needs to get to parents and caregivers. Of course, once they have this information, parents are then left with the dilemma of how to get water with “no or low” fluoride. It certainly isn’t coming out of our taps here in Fort Collins. Their choices are: buy bottled water, install an expensive water filter (common carbon filters do not filter out fluoride) or give their infant fluoridated tap water and accept the risks.
Parents need to understand the risks involved. Dental fluorosis is characterized by white or brown spots on the teeth and weakening of the tooth enamel that is caused by fluoride exposures during tooth formation. According to the comprehensive report from the National Academy of Sciences in March 2006, dental fluorosis is associated with other adverse health impacts, including lowered IQs. Fluoride also is linked to weakened bones, reduced thyroid activity, and possibly, bone cancer in boys. So, now we expect the poor to buy bottled water to protect their children from the fluoride we’re putting in the water to protect their children’s teeth and save dental costs? This is senseless.
The Environmental Working Group has called for a halt to all water fluoridation programs based on the NAS report and on its own analysis of fluoride exposure in infants in major cities throughout the United States. In areas with “optimal” fluoridation levels of 1 ppm (such as Fort Collins), it is estimated that 44 percent of formula-fed infants are exposed to unsafe levels of fluoride. (See “EWG Analysis of Government Data Finds Babies Over-Exposed to Fluoride in Most Major U.S. Cities,” www.ewg.org/issues/fluoride/20060322/index.php).
I call on the Fort Collins city council to act immediately to implement a safe exposure level for infants in our community by ceasing the practice of adding fluoride to our water. It is an ill-conceived practice that must end. It can no longer be claimed “safe.”
Bonnie Thompson lives in Fort Collins. She is the mother of a child with signs of dental fluorosis.