You probably noticed the flurry of excitement last week over news items like this one, peppered with language like “new” and “first time since” and the like:
But there are a couple problems with this. For one, there’s nothing especially new about it. The Department of Health and Human Services first made this recommendation in 2011. This is just the final version. The terms remain the same.
Where they once recommended a range of 0.07 to 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, now they say 0.07 is enough to “prevent” caries without significant risk of fluorosis. After all, they note, there are so many sources of fluoride available now.
Indeed: Not only is fluoride toothpaste the norm – in fact, many major retailers carry nothing but fluoride pastes – but there are also mouthwashes with fluoride and even fluoridated floss.
That, of course, raises a thorny question: Since it’s so readily available, why bother putting it into the public water supply at all? Those who want it (though heaven knows why one would, once aware of both its limitations and risks) can buy such products and use all they want without making everyone else to do the same, whether they want to or not. Cities would save money. Those who prefer their water fluoride-free would not be forced to spend huge amounts of cash to get it. (Filtering systems to remove fluoride run into the thousands of dollars – leading one anti-fluoride activist to sue members of the Dallas City Council after they voted in January to renew the city’s fluoridation contract. She wants them “to cover the expense of purchasing a whole house Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System with a three year maintenance agreement and for the expense of purchasing bottled water for the last 13 months.”)
In other words, sure, yay for lowering the recommendation, but you know what? Any level of added fluoride is too high.
And this points to yet another problem: As the Fluoride Action Network has amply discussed, the safety issue – which comes under the purview of the EPA – remains to be addressed. And as they show, looking at the evidence, it’s hard to make a positive case for fluoride. As a 2014 review in the Scientific World Journal summed up, at best,
fluoride has modest benefit in terms of reduction of dental caries but significant costs in relation to cognitive impairment, hypothyroidism, dental and skeletal fluorosis, enzyme and electrolyte derangement, and uterine cancer. Given that most of the toxic effects of fluoride are due to ingestion, whereas its predominant beneficial effect is obtained via topical application, ingestion or inhalation of fluoride predominantly in any form constitutes an unacceptable risk with virtually no proven benefit. [emphasis added]
Consider this: Although 78% of Texans receive fluoridated water – that alleged “best weapon” we have against tooth decay – more than 73% of third graders have had caries. Nearly 40% of seniors have lost 6 or more teeth.
Fortunately, more and more Texans are stepping up, speaking out and doing what they can to educate civic leaders and bring an end to this unethical, wasteful and harmful practice. Activists in Austin are especially optimistic in that they’re working with an almost entirely new city council and a new mayor who’s expressed interest in impartially exploring the issue.
Every victory puts us a little closer toward a fluoride-free future. If you want to get involved locally, connect with Fluoride-Free Houston.
Meantime, Texas State Representative David Simpson has introduced a bill – HB 1581 – which would provide the public much more information about the added fluoride content in their local water supply.
Texas House Bill 1581 would require the amount of Fluoride, the name of the company supplying it, the combined amount of fluoride in the drinking water from all sources, the annual cost of adding fluoride to the drinking water distributed by the system, and more. If passed by a a vote of two-thirds of all the members the bill goes in effect immediately. If the vote passes with less than two-thirds it will go into effect September 1, 2015.