For decades, fluoride has been marketed and heralded as essential for good dental hygiene and used in most toothpastes and mouthwashes. In addition, parents have been routinely encouraged to give their kids cavity-fighting fluoride treatments when they visit the dentist.
Beginning in the late 1940s, aided by mass industry lead lobbying campaigns, the government encouraged municipal water authorities to add fluoride to their community’s drinking water. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 70 percent of the U.S. population ingests fluoride through their community drinking water today and they want this percentage to continue to climb. This is in stark contrast to other developed European nations were fluoride is rarely added to drinking water – Britain provides only about 10 percent of their population with fluoridated water.
The “experts” and the government told us fluoride would strengthen tooth enamel, help prevent tooth decay and is, of course, perfectly safe.
“Community water fluoridation is an equitable, cost-effective, and cost-saving method of delivering fluoride to most people,” noted Dr. William Maas, director of CDC’s Division of Oral Health.
In a surprising reversal, last month EPA’s announced that it intends to lower the maximum amount of fluoride in drinking water because of growing evidence supporting the chemical’s possible deleterious effects to children’s health.
In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences report that found dental fluorosis – caused by too much fluoride – capable of putting children at risk of developing other dental problems including the breakdown of tooth enamel, discoloration and pitting.
January’s EPA recommendation reversal was made following a revised risk assessment study that found 2 out of 5 adolescents had tooth streaking or spottiness and some pitting as a result of excessive fluoride. In addition, other studies have found excessive ingestion of fluoride capable of increasing the risk of brittle bones leading to fractures and debilitating bone abnormalities.
There have always been fluoride critics who questioned the chemical’s safety and challenged the decision to use fluoride in municipal drinking water. According to the Los Angeles Times, back in 2005, “the heads of 11 EPA unions, including those representing the agency’s scientists, demanded that EPA reduce the permissible level of added fluoride in water to zero, citing research suggesting it can cause cancer. Other studies have pointed to neurotoxicity and hormone disruption from excessive fluoride”.
It has taken the government more than 60 years to recognize – some would argue admit – that American children have been overexposed to this toxic, potentially harmful chemical.
In response to the EPA’s sudden announcement, Jane Houlihan, senior vice-president of the Washington based non-profit Environmental Working Group, said, “this decision is another signal to the public to take care when it comes to exposures to industrial chemicals. What is considered safe today won’t necessarily be thought safe tomorrow.”
Our government has a pretty abysmal track record when it comes acknowledging the potential health risks associated with certain chemicals, particularly when its agencies have already determined these products as “safe”, encouraged, and in some cases mandated their use. So it is somewhat encouraging to see the EPA acknowledging the need to revise their position on fluoride and should be commended for it.
Nonetheless, here is yet another example of why consumers, especially parents, need to be vigilant, do their own research and understand that sometimes the “experts” and the government can be wrong.