Many public water supplies throughout the United States contain fluoride that has been added to the water by the water supplier. Of course, fluoride is not naturally found in drinking water. It is placed there by many companies that sell us our drinking water.
The popular, although not ONLY, opinion today is that it is beneficial to add fluoride to drinking water. Supposedly, it makes our teeth less susceptible to decay. While fluoride may be toxic if ingested at high levels, the popular wisdom is that it is safe at the prescribed levels. And, I do not know whether this is true or not. And many dentists will be quick to point out that kids have less cavities now than they used to have.
However, if I needed to ask someone whether the current prescribed levels are safe, I would ask someone who engages in risk assessment at the EPA. After all, the EPA establishes drinking water standards, and risk assessment people are trained to determine safe levels of exposure to various substances. Who better to ask?
Now the bombshell. The professional union at the EPA, which is called the National Treasury Employees Union, Chapter 280, has strongly opposed mandatory fluoridation. This includes the scientists, lawyers and engineers who work for the agency that is in charge of this kind of stuff.
John William Hirzy is a charter member of Chapter 280 and a Senior Vice President. He served as President for three terms. He is a Senior Scientist/Chemist in the Risk Assessment Division of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics at the EPA. Hirzy has told me that he and his Chapter oppose mandatory fluoridation.
Initially, Hirzy told me that the position that he takes on fluoride is not necessarily that of the EPA. He states that on this issue, he and the Union are an independent entity and are speaking in their Union capacities.
While the EPA is pro-fluoride, many of these EPA professionals are apparently against it. This is a big statement!
The Union became interested in the fluoride issue when drinking water standards were revised in the 1980s. Apparently, an EPA employee filed a complaint with the Union alleging that he was forced to draft a regulation which essentially disregarded cosmetic problems associated with fluoridation. It was alleged that political pressures were leading towards the adoption of fluoride ingestion levels that the Union believed to be too high.
The Union maintains that there is a lack of benefit to dental health from the ingestion of fluoride and that such ingestion does pose a hazard to human health. According to Union materials, hazards include potential kidney problems, potential gene mutations, cancer, and other severe health problems.
The Union’s position is set forth in full on the Internet. You may find it at ” www.nteu280.org/fluoride.htm”. You will find a very well written eight page article which explains how it is that this group of distinguished professionals opposes the wide spread practice. Many published studies are also cited.
It is interesting that a Union should take a position on this kind of issue. Usually, Unions concern themselves with labor-related issues, not, at least prominently, social causes. And for the Union to assume a position in such a public way, which is so contrary to that of the employer (the EPA) makes this even more striking.
What can we take from this Union position? I believe that this issue must be reconsidered by our scientists and legislators. I do not know who has it right: the professionals at the EPA, who oppose fluoridation, or the politicians within the agency, who have historically supported this practice.
Historically, the EPA has done some wonderful work. But consider this: it was this same EPA that endorsed the mandatory addition of MTBE to gasoline to clean our air. Now that we have learned that MTBE has leaked into groundwater sources, we know that this was not a great idea. I wonder whether the EPA will be compelled to do an about face on the fluoride issue as well. I hope not.