Skip to comments.After 60 years, debate over fluoride still rages
Posted on 07/24/2005 9:38:22 PM PDT by Coleus
After 60 years, debate over fluoride still rages
|Sunday, July 24, 2005|
The 30 or 40 patients who come through the Morris County dental office of Dr. Leonard Lawrence each week can get their teeth cleaned, drilled and filled. What they won't get is any fluoride - not in his cements, polishes or fillings.
He doesn't even recommend fluoride toothpaste - just good brushing, flossing and eating habits - because he thinks its cavity-fighting claims aren't proven. "The basic knowledge about fluoride is that it is a poison," he said. "That's why there's a warning on the back of the toothpaste tube" about swallowing too much.
When Teaneck orthodontist Frank Graham hears the arguments against fluoridation, he bristles like a well-worn toothbrush.
"All the science supports the use of fluoride," said Graham, who rarely sees a mouth that doesn't glisten from the benefits of fluoride treatments. "The most effective and efficient way to ensure everyone gets access to fluoride is to add it to our water systems."
It was 60 years ago that fluoride was first added to a drinking water supply in the United States to prevent tooth decay. And New Jersey - where 15 percent of water is fluoridated, ranking it 49th out of 50 states - is marking the occasion with its umpteenth debate over whether to treat or not to treat most of its water supplies. No North Jersey water suppliers use fluoride.
While a decision has recently been put on hold, the decades-old debate is poised to surface again.
The debate over adding fluoride to water supplies has been going on since the first such treatment 60 years ago. Here are the major arguments of both sides.
Has vastly improved the nation's dental health, reducing needless and painful tooth decay and saving millions in care. Supporters say children using fluoridated water have 29 percent fewer cavities.
Fluoride's proponents hail it as one of the 10 great public health accomplishments of the 20th century, transforming the oral health of a nation where people once routinely lost teeth to decay. Children in communities with water fluoridation get 29 percent fewer cavities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Poor children whose parents can't afford fluoride treatments and vitamins are exposed to needless tooth decay and pain, supporters say. And that costs $1.8 billion in restorative dental care, $108 million of it in New Jersey, the state Dental Association estimates.
But its detractors say there's no evidence fluoridated water has improved the nation's dental health.
Some also point to studies showing an unconfirmed link to a rare bone cancer and to the fact that high amounts of fluoride can cause fluorosis, in which teeth become pitted and stained with brown spots.
Others concede that fluoride might have benefits when used topically, but they believe people should be allowed to choose whether they want to use fluoride toothpaste and treatments - and not be forced to ingest treated water. They argue that fluoridated water is also used in other products, such as sodas and beers, making it hard for people to know exactly how much fluoride they are consuming.
Nationally, scientific powerhouses such as the American Dental Association and the CDC have been facing off against citizens organizations, environmentalists and splinter groups of dentists and scientists who continue to say the government-endorsed studies about fluoride are wrong. A group called NJ Citizens Opposing Forced Fluoridation has been active in the state for nearly 50 years.
Opposition is more widespread outside the United States, and countries such as Canada, Germany, Finland and Switzerland have stopped fluoridating water entirely.
The opponents have the support of most major environmental groups, which oppose tinkering with the natural balance of a water supply. They have also won converts in some scientific circles, most notably the union that represents 1,700 scientists and engineers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"The more we looked at it, the more it seemed to us that the whole water fluoridation issue is a big scam," said J. William Hirzy, vice president of the union, which came out against fluoridation in 1984 after an employee complained of being pressured to have his research support the safety of fluoridating. "There's some bad science behind this."
The debate has even sparked an investigation at Harvard University, where a researcher has been accused of burying evidence that fluoride is linked to a rare form of bone cancer in young boys. The Harvard study hasn't been released and therefore hasn't been reviewed by the CDC and other government researchers.
Dr. William Maas, director of the CDC's division of oral health, said fluoride's detractors often use flawed studies. Some, for example, found bone problems in rats exposed to levels of fluoride far higher than that which would be added to water. Others showed only a correlation between fluoridated water and high lead levels, not a cause, he said.
Two research efforts under way, including the Harvard study, are attempting to definitively prove or disprove the lead and cancer claims, Maas said.
"Once those are published I would hope that would finally assuage people's concerns," Maas said.
But some opponents also believe the fluoride campaign is being perpetrated by phosphate fertilizer companies seeking a cheaper way to dispose of the fluoride that is a waste product of their operations. They note that the fluoride added to water is the industrially produced hydrofluosilicic acid, rather than the pharmaceutically graded sodium fluoride used in toothpaste.
"This is an industrial waste product they are putting in tap water," said Nancy Brown Coleman, president of the New Jersey citizens group.
Supporters of fluoridation say the distinction is meaningless because fluoride ions disperse in water the same way, no matter how they originate. Water treatment practices are carefully regulated, they say, so no one should worry that other industrial contaminants are sneaking into the water supply along with the fluoride.
As for bone cancer and other theories that fluoride could contribute to lead poisoning, supporters say that 60 years of research and experience is on their side.
"If this was dangerous we'd have known it by now, said Arthur Meisel, executive director of the New Jersey Dental Association. "My God, you'd have seen it. You'd have seen it years ago. It's just common sense."
And, indeed, the CDC hopes that 75 percent of all Americans - up from 50 percent now - will receive fluoridated water by 2010.
All the back and forth about what's good science, and what isn't, hasn't brought the Garden State any closer to a consensus on what's good for both our teeth and our water.
Instead, the debate seems destined to stretch into yet another calendar year, to be taken up anew by a new administration. Just weeks ago, a decision had seemed imminent by the New Jersey Public Health Council, an autonomous agency charged with setting policy on everything from AIDS to immunizations.
The New Jersey Dental Association petitioned the council last year to mandate that fluoride be added to most public water supplies except for those that serve fewer than 100 customers, have high naturally occurring levels of fluoride, or are funded by property taxes.
But on June 27, acting Governor Codey issued an executive order stripping the council of its authority to implement public health policy.
Now, the eight-member panel will only serve as an adviser to the commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services, which will make the final ruling.
The executive order, which both the governor and council members say was made for reasons unrelated to the fluoride issue, leaves the fluoride petition in limbo. Codey's aides say he has taken no position on fluoridation.
The dental association was holding out hope that the council might decide the matter at one of the two public meetings scheduled before Codey's order takes effect at the end of August. The council's next meeting is Monday.
Dr. Robert Pallay, the council's chairman, said members had already been leaning toward delaying a decision until February, after the scheduled release of a national study by the National Academies of Science reexamining what level of fluoride should be deemed safe.
Supporters of fluoridation say the study is a standard review the EPA conducts every six to eight years and they expect little change.
But opponents are holding out hope for something big. "They could decide the safe level for fluoride in water is zero," Hirzy said.
"I can no longer sit idly by and allow the Communists to fluoridate our water and sap our precious bodily fluids"
Any other neurotoxic effects would be hard to come by without engineering that outcome. Fluoride is way too greedy for type II elements, which exist in relative abundance in our bodies.
|(Environmental) Group: Dentist hid fluoride-cancer link|
It is just another way that Politicians have of separating you from your Money, Like Mass Transit and Light Rail etc etc etc
Nasty is as nasty does. I'd like to see some of these grubbers in the same cellblock as Ebbers...
The spirit of fear sells books, promotes a person, and totally distorts the good fluoride does for us. I have been a dentist for decades and watched this debate. I have practiced dentistry in well fluoridated communities and non fluoridated communities. The devastation to the teeth of the young children is sad in the communities that are not properly fluoridated. Those medical and dental professionals that use their degree to write and sell books for profit that are totally non science have done us all a great disservice, whether it is about fluoride, cancer treatments, or UFOs. Fluoride at the proper concentration is not a problem. It is strange that the same people that do not like fluoride have no problem with adding the very strong poison chlorine to our public water.
Does the funding of "research" by organizations that receive money from people who want to sell for profit an otherwise useless industrial byproduct mean anything to you?
"Women sense my power. They seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake. But I do deny them my essence." -- General Jack D. Ripper
Banjo player in Deliverence? Or "Hill" people?
Not sure on the Flouride but I had all my Mercury fillings replaced with nice white ones (and a few gold).
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