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Dec-17-2011 22:17printcomments

Is Fluoridation Safe?

About 70 percent of community water systems in the U.S. are treated with fluoride.

Water drops

(SAN FRANCISCO) - Fluoride is the name given to a group of compounds that are composed of the naturally occurring element fluorine and one or more other elements. In the early 1940s, scientists discovered that people who lived where drinking water supplies had naturally occurring fluoride levels of approximately 1.0 part fluoride per million parts water (ppm) had fewer dental caries (cavities). More recent studies have supported this finding.

Fluoride can prevent and even reverse tooth decay by enhancing remineralization, the process by which fluoride “rebuilds” tooth enamel that is beginning to decay. In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan adjusted the fluoride content of its water supply to 1 ppm and thus became the first city to implement community water fluoridation in a public water system.

On January 7, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) announced a proposal recommending that water systems practicing fluoridation adjust their fluoride content to 0.7 mg/L ppm, as opposed to the previous temperature-dependent optimal levels ranging from 0.7 mg/L to 1.2 mg/L

About 70 percent of community water systems in the U.S. are treated with fluoride. Water fluoridation is used in varying degrees in some countries, including Australia, Brazil, some parts of Canada, Chile, Ireland, Malaysia, and Vietnam, but Continental Europe largely does not fluoridate water. Some countries fluoridate salt.

In California only about 30 percent of water systems are fluoridated, partly because of the high cost of fluoridating its highly complicated water systems.  The California Department of Public Health provides a "California Statewide Fluoridation Table" showing the California water systems with fluoride. A state law passed in 1995, mandated that if the money for equipment and initial maintenance costs are provided by sources other than the utility or its customers, water companies must build fluoridation systems.  California has identified and prioritizes 150 cities for fluoridation but never funded the program.

Fluoride is naturally found in low concentration in drinking water and food and the ocean contains between 1.2 and 1.5 ppm. Fluoridated toothpaste is another main source of fluoride. Other fluoride-containing dental products include gels, varnishes, pastes, and restorative materials. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates toothpastes and other dental products but not fluoride in our water systems. Efforts have been made to get Congress to allow the FDA to regulate water additives, but such efforts have failed so far.

The American Dental Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the World Health Organization all support fluoridation. The CDC calls water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. If fluoride is beneficial to health, then why is water fluoridation so controversial?

Below are some "Myths & Facts: Possible responses to common anti-fluoride claims."

* Opponents argue that fluoridation is a violation of the individual's right to informed consent to medication. Actually fluoride is not a medication. It is mineral naturally found in water and foods. The only question is what level of fluoridation should be added to the water supply.

* We already can get fluoride in toothpaste, so why do we need it in our drinking water? The CDC reviewed this question in January 2011. After looking at all the ways we might get fluoride – including fluoride toothpaste – the CDC recommended continuing to fluoridate water at 0.7 ppm. Any less puts our teeth at risk. Fluoride toothpaste alone is insufficient, which is why pediatricians and dentists prescribe fluoride tablets to children in non-fluoridated areas.

* Doesn't fluoridation cause fluorosis causing teeth to turn brown and pitted? Fluorosis is never caused by community water fluoridation because the concentrations are too low. Mild fluorosis – barely noticeable tiny white specs on one’s teeth – is more common, the result of higher-than-normal fluoride intake as a child. This condition, often noticeable only to dentists, is actually an indication of exceptionally strong teeth. Nevertheless, the CDC last year set the recommended level of fluoridation – 0.7 ppm – low enough to avoid even moderate fluorosis while still strengthening teeth.

* Isn't fluoride especially toxic for small children? Actually, children who drink fluoridated water as their teeth grow will have stronger, more decay resistant teeth over their lifetime.

* Is tooth decay still a problem in the United States? Tooth decay affects nearly 60 percent of children. Tooth decay causes problems that often last long into adulthood. For example, California children missed 874,000 school days in 2007 due to dental problems.

* Does fluoridation cause cancer and other serious health problems? The National Cancer Institute has stated: “Many studies, in both humans and animals, have shown no association between fluoridated water and risk for cancer.” In 2006, a panel of the National Research Council—an arm of the National Academies of Science—found no convincing evidence of a causal link between fluoridation and cancer. And according to the American Council on Science and Health, “Historically, anti-fluoride activists have claimed, with no evidence, that fluoridation causes everything from cancer to mental disease.”

* Is community water fluoridation too costly? No, according to the California Department of Health, the annual cost to fluoridate a community averages $.51 per person per year, depending on community size, labor costs, and type of chemicals and equipment used. This figure amounts to less than the cost of one filling.

Fluoridation has been found to be safe by scientists and ruled proper by a California Court of Appeal in Hermine Beck v. City Council of Beverly Hills, which ruled in a landmark 1973 decision that adding fluoride to water supplies is "a reasonable and proper exercise of the police power in the interest of public health." However, even though scientists declared fluoride safe and effective, and the courts have ruled that adding fluoride to water systems legal, fluoridation is still controversial. For example, see the Fluoride Action Network website writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer's talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address

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Bill Osmunson DDS, MPH December 19, 2011 11:51 am (Pacific time)

Ralph, Thanks for bringing up the fluoridation controversy.

The Washington Board of Pharmacy, Idaho Board of Pharmacy and US FDA CDER have confirmed fluoride when used to prevent cavities is a drug under state and federal laws. Fluoride toothpaste is FDA CDER approved; however, the warning is not to swallow. No other fluoride products even fluoride products in dental offices are approved. The FDA CDER warns unapproved drugs are illegal.

You might be interested to note that in Doe v Rumsfeld the District court found even in times of war the government cannot force a person to ingest an unapproved drug.

We are ingesting too much fluoride from many sources.

Of most concern are infants fed formula made with Salem water. Mother's milk contains almost no fluoride and Salem water is about 170 times more concentrated with fluoride.

Also of concern is the chemicals used are the industrial waste scrubbings of the phosphate fertilizer companies, contaminated with substances such as lead and arsenic. Modern medicine does not dispute the increased lead is dangerous.

Having promoted fluoridation, fluoride supplements, and fluoride topical applications in my dental office for 25 years, it was like a knee in the gut to read the science finding little or no benefit and serious risk of harm.

The CDC Oral Health Division are simply incompetent marketing hacks for industry. The Bernie Madoff SEC disaster, economic problems, and real estate crash is peanuts compared to the negative economic harm from fluoridation.

One day, fluoridation will be considered one of the top ten public health blunders of the 20th Century.

arther December 19, 2011 1:55 am (Pacific time)

This article offers a gross misrepresentation of what fluoride really is, where it comes from, what it does and does not do and the characterization of those who dare oppose it! For the sake of honest research (and reporting), and before your readers take another sip of fluoridated water, I implore they do their own study. It won’t take long for them to flip through the numerous available resources which include the historical evolution of the money-driven politics behind water fluoridation and come to a very different conclusion than this author. For starters, I urge reading investigative journalist Christopher Bryson’s "Fluoride Deception." Also "The Case Against Fluoride," by Dr. Paul Connett and co-authored by Drs Beck and Micklem, or go to the website, and peruse the volumes of information there, among which is a highly informative 20-minute video of professionals who have truly done their research and speak to the perils of fluoridation.

MuscledGeek December 18, 2011 11:23 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks jwillie6. I'm going to paraphrase you on that. Over 7,000 unionized EPA professionals now oppose the practice since finding out that the practice has adverse health effects starting before the year 2000.

Joy M. Graves December 18, 2011 5:53 pm (Pacific time)

Including the water right there in good ole Salem, Oregon SA Tim, don't know if you knew that or not, lol. They permote it as if it's a good thing, question is - is it? I don't care about what they Say is "safe levels" - it's Not a safe chemical for the human body period... right. Funny to me their systems - outlawing all food bearing plants while encouraging toxic substances... wonderful world "leaders" we have huh!

Tim King: I could not agree more, we take a great deal for granted.  Thanks!

Anonymous December 18, 2011 12:56 pm (Pacific time)

great post jwillie..I agree, and I do my research..Let me add. I have been fighting this for many years. I know what it really does but did not mention it too much, I just stuck to facts I could prove. From those facts (children between the ages of around 8-12 were getting bone damage)...those facts that people and myself made a small difference. The government admitted it, and threw us a bone to take out 30% of the flouride. The government said "flouride is good, we just put too much in" There OWN words, not mine..In fact, call salem/keizer water department (I did), and ask. They took out 30% of the flouride back in January 2011. Its a good start, but it needs to be taken out of our water completely...Keep fighting people!!!!

jwillie6 December 17, 2011 11:23 pm (Pacific time)

Fluoridation is a Hoax Read the truth produced in the best scientific information on fluoridation here: ( You will see a petition signed by almost 4000 professionals, including hundreds of dentists, hundreds of doctors, and other medical researchers calling on governments everywhere to stop fluoridation. There are many large scientific studies there to show that drinking fluoridated water has no positive effect on cavity reduction and to show that it causes cancer, thyroid damage, broken hips from brittle bones, lowered IQ and other health problems. THe World Health Organization studied 16 countries and showed fluoride is of no value for teeth. Europe has rejected it and is 98% fluoride free. Many other large scientific studies in several countries show the same ineffectiveness.

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