Ben and Robin Gremillion of Madison have spent much of their waking hours over the past couple of years campaigning against fluoride in the city’s drinking water.
They believe fluoride has caused their 10-year-old daughter and Robin herself to have thyroid problems, which have led to numerous other health problems. They have been pleading their case with the Madison Utilities board to do away with it in the city’s drinking water supply.
“Fluoride is in many ways a toxin,” Ben Gremillion told the utility board at its Dec. 19 meeting. “It’s not necessary for water quality. You can’t boil it away.”
While the board currently has no plans to eliminate the chemical that has long been supported by health officials as preventing tooth decay, it is scheduled to vote tonight on lowering the rate of fluoride from .8 milligrams per liter of water to .7 milligrams based on a recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services in January 2011.
The board meets at 5:30 p.m. at the Madison Utilities building at 101 Ray Sanderson Drive.
It is the first time since 1962 a change in the fluoride levels has been recommended.
The American Dental Association (ADA) hailed the recommendation in a report, saying, “This adjustment will provide an effective level of fluoride to reduce the incidence of tooth decay while minimizing the rate of fluorosis in the general population.”
Madison Utilities General Manager Ricky Pounders considered conducting a survey of city residents about their views on fluoride. However, he said a similar survey was done several years ago, and more than 90 percent of the city’s residents wanted it. He also cited two reasons for not doing so, including the HHS recommendation.
“Since this department (HHS) consists of various health and dental experts, we are not recommending a survey,” he said. “I would not feel qualified to dispute their findings.”
Pounders also said with the city’s card billing method, it would be difficult to conduct a survey without envelopes for people to return them to the office.
Huntsville Utilities spokesperson Bill Yell said the Huntsville City Council would have to approve eliminating fluoride in the city’s drinking water since it passed an ordinance years ago requiring it.
However, he said the utility company can lower the levels without council permission, but is currently awaiting word from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management on its fluoride level recommendations.
Scott Hughes with ADEM said the department doesn’t make its own recommendations, but uses the EPA guidelines as a reference point.
“ADEM doesn’t endorse or oppose fluoride in drinking water,” said Hughes. “The EPA, which has toxicologists and medical health professionals, makes the decision as to what levels are safe.”
Since fluoride was first put into the drinking water during a pilot program in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1945, most American communities have added the natural chemical to their drinking water supplies for dental health purposes.
But fluoride, once considered the savior of teeth, is coming under attack from a number of professionals and ordinary citizens who believe it may actually cause other health problems ranging from Alzheimer’s to ADHD.
Dr. Sylvia Onusic, a food writer, nutritionist and activist, said in a report that it is “well established that fluoride in dose of 2-4 milligrams per day suppresses the thyroid gland. Prolonged high intake can permanently damage the thyroid, the master gland that commands that energy be made in every cell in the body. Hypothyroidism can lead to heart disease, high cholesterol and auto-immune disease, miscarriages and premature births.”
Onusic holds a doctorate from Penn State University. Her article can be found at http://hartkeisonline.com/natural-health/fluoride-dangers-uncovered/ .
The Fluoride Action Network (http://www.fluoridealert.org/) is devoted to eliminating fluoride in drinking water, noting that 97 percent of western Europe is now fluoride-free. It says fluoride is “the only chemical added to drinking water for the purpose of medication (to prevent tooth decay). All other treatment chemicals are added to treat the water to improve the water’s quality and safety, which fluoride does not do.”
Although the ADA still promotes fluoride for adults, in 2006 it advised parents against giving infants fluoride-treated water, which can cause dental fluorosis, a permanent tooth defect caused by fluoride damaging the cells that form the teeth.
The 10,000-population town of Bolivar, Mo., voted in February to do away with fluoride in its water supply, saving the city $20,000 annually, according to the Bolivar Herald Free Press.
While it would be somewhat of a savings to both Madison and Huntsville, it’s not significant, said Yell.
“It’s not cheap, but it’s part of the rate structure,” said Yell.
Pounders said the cost is just under $46,000 annually for Madison Utilities’ fluoride treatment.
In the meantime, the Gremillions have installed a home purification system at a cost of about $450, and Robin says she and her daughter are feeling much better. However, her daughter still drinks water at school and other places, so sometimes she has relapses of listlessness and other health problems.
While she would prefer Madison Utilities stop water fluoridation, she said she is “glad that they are at least lowering the level. It’s also nice to hear the CDC acknowledge that there are unwanted health effects to swallowing fluoride.”
Gremillion said documented side effects from ingestion of fluoride include cancer, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, reduced IQ in children, dental and skeletal fluorosis, as well as hypothyroidism (which leads to fatigue, weight gain and depression).
“There are hundreds of studies carried out over the past 20 years that support the link between ingestion of fluoride and these diseases,” she said. “There is no benefit, and plenty of potential harm when swallowing fluoride, so I just can’t see any good reason to have it added to the water.”