LITTLE ROCK – A joint committee of the Arkansas General Assembly is considering a proposal which would mandate fluoridation of all public water systems in the state. A hearing on Interim Study Proposal 2003-157 was held in September by the Joint Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor.
Currently, the option of water fluoridation is left to localities. Eureka Springs has rejected the idea of adding fluoride to the city’s water supply at least twice in recent years, once by a vote in a 1989 special election, and again in 2001 after city council polled water customers with the question on their water bills.
Other cities in the state, including Ft. Smith, Hot Springs and Texarkana have also rejected fluoridation, though some city directors in Hot Springs have raised the issue again in recent months. Fluoridation is also banned in most of Europe, China, Japan and India. In 2002, Belgium took fluoride supplements off the market because they purportedly are poisonous and pose a great risk to physical and psychological health.
Even after 60 years of use in the U.S, the Food and Drug Administration still considers fluoride an “unapproved new drug,” and the Environmental Protection Agency considers it “a contaminant.” Opponents note that the fluoride compounds commonly added to water are toxic waste products of industry, and that industry had a hand in the fluoridation movement as a way to dispose of the waste and make a profit.
While it is estimated that 60 percent of Americans drink fluoridated water, critics point to mounting evidence that fluoride in drinking water does little, if anything, to prevent tooth decay, but instead threatens public health. Studies link fluoride to brittle bones, kidney problems, cancer, cardio-vascular disease and brain disorders such as hyperactivity, autism and Alzheimer’s.
The American Dental Association, which is lobbying the legislature to mandate fluoridation, considers such studies to be “ junk science.” From its fluoridation handbook: “From time to time, opponents of fluoridation have questioned its safety and effectiveness. None of these charges has ever been substantiated by generally accepted science. It is important to review information about fluoridation with a critical eye.
“For over five decades, the American Dental Association has continuously endorsed the fluoridation of community water supplies and the use of fluoride-containing products as safe and effective measures for preventing tooth decay,” states the ADA website. “The ADA, along with state and local dental societies, continues to work with federal, state, and local agencies to increase the number of communities benefiting from water fluoridation.
“The overwhelming weight of credible scientific evidence has consistently indicated that fluoridation of community water supplies is safe. Fluoride in these low concentrations is not toxic or harmful. Studies prove water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing tooth decay by 20-40%, even in an era with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste. Simply by drinking optimally fluoridated water, the entire community benefits regardless of age, socioeconomic status, educational attainment or other social variables. The benefits of water fluoridation are not limited to those with access to dental care.”
The ADA and other pro-fluoridation organizations do not address excessive fluoride intake from other sources in any literature the Citizen could locate.
Crystal Harvey, a hairdresser and mother of four, was one of two women who spoke to the committee in opposition to the fluoridization proposal. Harvey said she worked to defeat attempts to fluoridate the water of Hot Springs on two occasions, and only learned of the state proposal the morning of the hearing. Though unprepared to testify, she said she dropped everything and headed to the Capitol.
Ironically, Harvey said she initially supported fluoridization of Hot Springs water – “I grew up in the Colgate generation” – and only got involved because she thought the issue should be decided by voters rather than city directors. She then “embarked on a campaign of research” and became an antifluoridation activist.
“What blew me away [at the hearing] is how the big-suit guys can get away with bold-faced lies,” Harvey said. “They say it [fluoride] is not poison, that most of the world uses it and that only wackos and crazies are against it.”
The sponsor of the proposal, State Rep. Tommy Roebuck (D-Arkadelphia) is also a dentist. Harvey said that when presented with evidence about detrimental effects of fluoride, “he poo-pooed it.” She said she offered to send him a copy of a new book, The Fluoride Deception, an exposé by New York Times (sic) investigative reporter Christopher Bryson, but he told her he would not read it.
According to numerous reports found on the Internet, including some from agencies of the U.S. government, many Americans now ingest far more
fluoride than is considered safe. Among the most outspoken critics of fluoridation is the union of scientists working for the EPA.
A Toxicological Profile by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that “existing data indicate that subsets of the population may be unusually susceptible to the toxic effects of fluoride and its compounds. These populations include the elderly, people with deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, and/or vitamin C, and people with cardiovascular and kidney problems… Some people with cardiovascular problems may be at increased risk of fluoride toxicity… Postmenopausal women and elderly men in fluoridated communities may also be at increased risk of fractures.
A 1998 report in Brain Science, a peer-reviewed journal, linked fluoride intake in rats, taken long-term at comparable levels to fluoridated water in humans, with brain changes similar to Alzheimer’s. Proponents of fluoridation claim the study was flawed.
Acceptable levels of fluoride in water (.7 – 1.2 parts per million) were set in the 1940s, when fluoridation was initiated. At the time, there were few other sources of fluoride in diets and dosage was based on consuming one liter of water a day. However, since then, fluoride is ingested from numerous sources, including pesticide residues in fruit and vegetable and meat products, fluoride dental products, and foods and beverages, including baby food, processed in areas where the water is fluoridated.
Even the American Dental Association (ADA) does not recommend fluoride for children under three.
In 1991, an HHS review of fluoride benefits and risks estimated fluoride intake of Americans at as much as 120 percent over the “optimum dosage” of 1 milligram/day in unfluoridated areas, and 605 percent over optimum in fluoridated areas.
According to U.S. government experts, most people currently ingest about four times as much fluoride as they did during the early days of water fluoridation. At least 22 percent of all American children now have dental fluorosis as a result of ingesting too much fluoride, according to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The Academy of General Dentistry, an international organization of 34,000 general dentists from the United States, its territories, and Canada, conducted an analysis of 532 juices to determine the amount of fluoride in these drinks. The study concluded that more than half of the juices have more fluoride than is recommended.
The one detriment of fluoridation that proponents acknowledge is fluorosis, a mottling and discoloration of teeth caused by too much fluoride. While dentists claim fluorosis is purely cosmetic, critics claim it is a symptom of fluoride poisoning.
According to Dr. Hardy Limeback, head of preventive dentistry at the University of Toronto, a former proponent and now outspoken critic, fluoridation of water, “has contributed to the birth of a multi-billion dollar industry of tooth bleaching and cosmetic dentistry. More money is being spent now on the treatment of dental fluorosis than what would be spent on dental decay if water fluoridation were halted.”
Harvey notes that fluoridation proponents are heavily funded by the American Dental Association and industry, and can afford glossy brochures, signs and advertising to support their cause. “I’ve heard they are running radio ads out of Little Rock, preparing the people, telling them how great and wonderful it is.”
Harvey, on the other hand, has been a one woman show, sending packets of information to legislators – costing her more than she can afford. “If anyone hates this as much as I do, ask them to send money, stamps, or something,” she pleaded, noting that each packet she sends out costs her about $9.50 and that she has already prepared 100 packets.
On the bright side, Harvey noted, most legislators she’s spoken to believe fluoridation is a local issue, best left to communities to decide. However, 14 house members on the committee will be out of office by the first of the year due to term limits, and others may not have been reelected. So she will likely have to repeat much of the work she’s done with new legislators if the proposal doesn’t die in interim study, which is her hope.
“We [fluoridation opponents] have been fighting this in our little towns,” Harvey said. “Now they’re trying to go over our heads. That makes me really mad. I’m only one person. I need help from all over the state.”
The joint committee is scheduled to meet again on the issue Dec. 13 and Harvey has lined up five speakers to address them, including William Hirzy of the EPA union. She is looking for public support at the meeting, either in person or through letters, as well as help in paying Dr. Hirzy’s expenses.
Those wishing to help can reach Harvey at (501) 520-6996 or Cfharvey@hsnp.com. She can be reached via mail at P.O. Box 20069, Hot
Springs, AR 72903. Extensive information can be found on the Internet at http://www.zerowasteamerica.org/Fluoride.htm