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Home > Feature Articles > Health and Well Being Strategies

Fluoride in Drinking Water

Fluoride in community water supplies is a hotly debated topic that concerns children's health, cancer rates, and toxic chemical safety.

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Fluoride in drinking water is a controversial health measure. In late 2007 California's Metropolitan Water District took a long debated action to add fluoride to the drinking water of 18 million Southern Californians. The controversy continues about the health impacts to infants and children with many chemicals due to the child's developing systems and higher levels of activity...and ingestion of food and water. Fluoride is a strong chemical that attracts ongoing concerns and research.

According to the LA Times, "Because fluoride easily bonds with other chemicals it has been widely used in industry, including in the manufacture of steel, glass and ceramics. More sinister, in the eyes of its critics, have been its uses in such things as rat poison and atomic bomb production.

And fluoride opponents can point to one indisputable fact: The chemical is indeed dangerous, even in small amounts. It’s extremely corrosive – an accidental spill of fluor silicic acid on a Florida interstate a few years ago sent more than 50 people to hospitals. Drinking an ounce would probably kill a person.

The amount considered optimal for teeth is minuscule by comparison. The EPA allows dozens of dangerous chemicals to be added in minute amounts to public water for a variety of reasons. Chlorine and ozone purify. Hydrochloric acid makes water less alkaline; sodium hydroxide makes it less acidic. Aluminum sulfate makes it clearer. Sodium chloride softens hard water.

What sets fluoride apart is that it is the only chemical specifically added to water as a health remedy." LA TIMES

A 2006 report by the National Academies’ National Research Council prompted the American Dental Assn. to recommend that reconstituted baby formula be made with fluoride-free water to reduce the risk of enamel fluorosis, which could permanently stain developing teeth. The group continues to support fluoridation of drinking water.

About 170 million Americans, about two-thirds of the population, drink from public systems with the recommended amount of fluoride (1 part per million).

California has been slow to adopt fluoride. Prior to 1995, California ranked 48th out of the 50 states in the percentage of people who drank fluoridated water. That year, Easley helped write legislation passed by the Assembly which mandates water providers fluoridate when money becomes available to retrofit their systems. With the MWD’s move and San Diego poised to add fluoride, California will soon be on par with the rest of the U.S.

Virtually all of the science and medical establishment – including the American Dental Assn., the American Medical Assn., the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – have endorsed fluoride in water. Supporters say numerous studies over the decades show that the chemical in low concentrations – about one part per million or the equivalent of three drops in 42 gallons of water – reduces tooth decay by 20% to 60% with minimal risk.

David Kennedy, a retired San Diego dentist and among the most outspoken opponents, keeps the fight against fluoride in drinking water alive through such groups as the Web-based Fluoride Action Network.

Kennedy also has a degree in biochemistry and physiology, is past president of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, which has promoted research on the dangers of mercury in fillings.

RESOURCE: CDC's state directory of fluoride use. "My Water's Fluoride". My Water’s Fluoride allows consumers in currently participating states to learn the fluoridation status of their water system.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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