Broach the subject of “fluoridated water” and prepare yourself for a veritable tsunami of information, disinformation, science, pseudoscience, myth and conspiracy theories that just may rival the JFK assassination.
Nonetheless, the issue of fluoridated water recently arose during a Boyne City Commission meeting when one public official suggested immediately discontinuing the city’s practice of adding the chemical to its municipal water supply.
“Based on my research, I’ve seen enough to say we should not be adding (fluoride) to whatever is naturally-occurring,” said Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord in a Thursday April 17 interview.
Gaylord introduced the topic during the Boyne City Commission’s April 8 regular meeting when he called for a motion to immediately stop Boyne City’s decades-old practice of adding fluoride to its water supply. The motion failed for lack of a second but the issue was added to the city’s May 13 meeting agenda.
Gaylord said he hadn’t considered the matter until Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom brought it up during budget discussions concerning the city’s water and wastewater department.
Gaylord said that, with all the fluoridated products available—toothpaste, mouthwash, rinses, dental treatments—individuals should have the option of whether to expose themselves and their children to fluoride.
“Everyone can make their own decision if we don’t intentionally add it to the water system,” said Gaylord, adding that he was concerned about the potential health effects of the substance.
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch said his family dentist recommended providing his children with fluoride tablets back in the 1970s.
“Our kids have had a great track record as far as good teeth and minimal cavities and minimal problems,” he said. “Apparently, in our case, there was benefit—but there could be studies that certainly supersede that. I am not an expert on it.”
Grunch said he won’t make a decision until he has seen information being gathered by city staff on the matter, and until he hears what the public has to say.
Sansom also said she would like to see the public have a chance to opine on the matter.
“This is something I’ve been concerned about for a long time,” said Sansom. “I favor not using any (fluoride). I don’t think it’s necessary to have chemicals in water that you don’t need.”
Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne said he would likely vote to get rid of the fluoridation after what he’s read about it, but said he would like to hear what the citizens have to say on the matter first.
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer did not respond to the Boyne City Gazette by press time.
What is fluoride?
Nearly two-thirds of Americans—196 million people—use fluoridated water. Some regions of the world use fluoridated water while some use fluoridated salt, milk or mouthwashes and dental varnish.
Fluoride helps protect against bacteria in the mouth called “caries” which create tooth decaying acids. Fluoride can strengthen your tooth enamel and help prevent and even reverse damage.
According to the CDC, there has been a dramatic decline in tooth decay over the last nearly 60 years, since fluoride was introduced into drinking water and dental hygiene products.
In 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services adjusted recommended water fluoride levels downward because people no longer rely solely on drinking water for their fluoride intake.
While the optimal level of fluoride is between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter of water, the EPA’s highest level allowed in public water supplies is 4 milligrams per liter.
According to the World Health Organization, vegetables and fruits tend to have very low levels of fluoride—0.1 to 0.4 milligrams—while rice, barley, taro, yams and cassava can contain higher levels, nearly 2 milligrams.
Local fluoride distribution
According to Boyne City’s Water/Wastewater Superintendent Dan Meads, the water department operators add fluoride directly to the municipal water supply in carefully measured doses.
“We have to buy it from certified chemical distributors that have been NSF (National Science Foundation) approved,” Meads said. “The EPA sets contaminant levels and recommended limits… Generally, in the past, our goal was to have one part per million.”
Meads, who has worked for the water department for 34 years, said the fluoride is relatively inexpensive, saying a year’s supply costs somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.
Meads said he will have an exact figure when he presents a report on the city’s water fluoridation efforts to Boyne City Commissioners in early May.
During the Boyne City Gazette’s investigation of the matter, it was discovered that Charlevoix County’s 13 municipal and private water systems range from none to higher-than-optimal levels.
The Fluoridation of Boyne City’s water began on Jan. 1, 1973. Boyne City’s natural level of fluoridation is zero and it therefore adds enough fluorosilicic acid to bring it up to an optimal level of 1.
Charlevoix County’s other water systems and their fluoride levels in milligrams per liter of water are as follows:
• Boyne Falls – Naturally-occurring optimal level of fluoride of 1
• City of Charlevoix – Adds fluorosilicic acid to reach a level of 1
• Charlevoix Township – Naturally-occurring level of 1.7
• City of East Jordan – fluorosilicic acid added to reach level of 1
• GrandVue Medial Care Facility – Purchases its water from a municipal water supply that reaches the level of 1 milligram per liter of water
• Hemingway Pointe Condos – Naturally-occurring fluoride level of 1.4
Horton Bay Club – Naturally-occurring level of 1.6
• Lake Michigan Heights MHP – Naturally-occurring level of 0.8
• Melrose-Chandler Water Company – Naturally-occurring level of 1
• Walloon Lake Water System – Naturally-occurring level of 1.3
According to the CDC, Ellsworth, Boyne Mountain, Hills of Walloon Association, Island View subdivision, Nine Mile Pointe and Wildwood Condos all have water system with fluoride concentrations below the optimal level to prevent cavities.
Charlevoix Township’s and Horton Bay’s respective water systems meet or exceed optimal fluoride levels according to the CDC.
“For fluoride levels above 2 ppm (2 mg/L), alternate drinking water sources should be used for children 8 years and younger,“ the CDC stated.
While agencies and offices like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Dental Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Surgeon General, American Association of Public Health Dentistry, World Health Organization, and the International Association of Dental Research support the use of fluoridated water, fluoride overexposure does have its risks.
Dental fluorosis causes discoloration and pitting—typically in children—of the tooth enamel.
“It can result when children regularly consume higher-than-recommended amounts of fluoride during the teeth forming years, age 8 and younger,” the CDC stated. “Most dental fluorosis in the U.S.—about 92 percent—is very mild to mild, appearing as white spots on the tooth surface that in many cases only a dental professional would notice. Moderate and severe forms of dental fluorosis, which are less common, cause more extensive enamel changes.”
It further stated, “In the rare, severe form, pits may form in the teeth. The severe form rarely occurs in communities where the level of fluoride in water is less than 2 milligrams per liter.”
An Aug. 1, 1988 article in the Chemical & Engineering News by Bette Hileman entitled, “Fluoridation of Water: Questions about health risks and benefits remain after more than 40 years” cited a National Institute of Dental Research survey that stated, in the first 40 years of fluoride usage, tooth decay in school children had been cut by more than half.
Hileman also stated that, in 1980, France’s then Chief Council of Public Health refused to fluoridate water over questions about its safety; Denmark’s environmental minister, in 1977, and the West German Association of Gas & Water Experts in 1978, rejected the practice citing a lack of information regarding long-term health affects.
Another known health effect from overexposure to fluoride is skeletal fluorosis.
“Most experts in skeletal fluorosis agree that ingestion of 20 mg of fluoride a day for 20 years or more can cause crippling skeletal fluorosis,” Hileman stated. “Doses as low as 2 to 5 mg per day can cause the preclinical and earlier clinical stages.”
Skeletal fluorosis can cause a painful and disfiguring twisting and bending of bones and joints.
“In parts of India, China, Africa, Japan, and the Middle East, large numbers of people have skeletal fluorosis from drinking naturally fluoridated water. In India about a million people have this disease,” Bettemen stated. “Most of the victims live in areas where the water fluoride level is 2 ppm or above, but some cases are found in communities with natural fluoride levels below 1 ppm.”
A dentist’s view
Dr. Jennifer Larson, D.D. S., Owner and Operator of Park View Family Dentistry, said she supports the fluoridation of Boyne City’s water supply.
“Like so many different issues—vaccinations for kids, mercury fillings, and other hot topics—those opposed to what is currently being done, even if it is safe and effective, often make dramatic claims that are not substantiated,” she said. “In this case we’ve got 65 years of proven safety from a public health standpoint; and I personally see it in my own practice.”
Larson said patients who are otherwise healthy but avoid fluoride may find themselves enduring unnecessary tooth decay, expense and discomfort.
“Over the years, the public health sector has worked out the safe amount of fluoride, to dramatically reduce tooth disease, while maintaining safe levels,” she said. “Anything in excess can be a poison—too much water can throw off your body chemistry and be a poison—if not properly administered. Levels of fluoride in drinking water are far from toxic levels.”
She added, “We fortify orange juice with calcium, and bread with folic acid; vitamin B is added to milk, iodine is added to salt.”
Larson said fluoridation helps those in low-income areas by providing them with tooth protection they might not otherwise receive.
“To remove it … we would see a big step back in public health,” she said. “It would be a mistake and a disservice to the community.”
Larson added, “I would encourage people not to be swayed by opinions but to look into scientific information and clinical studies that are done properly.”
One of the biggest opponents to the practice of fluoridating water is Dr. Joseph Mercola D.O., (mercola.com) who operates Optimal Wellness—one of the world’s largest alternative health supplement operations. [EDITOR’S NOTE: It should be noted that Mercola has received at least three letters from the FDA (one in 2006 and two in 2011) warning him to stop making dozens of illegal claims his company has marketed about the ability of numerous products represented to treat and/or identify everything from cancer to heart disease.]
The other opponent is Paul Connett, PhD, Executive Director of the Fluoride Action Network.
Mercola and Connett share some of each other’s information on each other’s websites and Mercola has raised funds extensively for the Fluoride Action Network.
Connett’s Fluoride Action Network claims on its website that fluoride is a medicine and should, therefore, not be added to water. According to the EPA, fluoride compounds are salts that form when the element, fluorine, combines with minerals in soil or rocks.
Another claim is that nearly 40 percent of American teenagers have dental fluorosis. The CDC backs this figure but claims most cases were considered mild or extremely mild.
The network also claims fluoride supplements have never been approved by the FDA. That statement is true but only because the FDA has no role in approving water additives—Fluoride is approved and regulated for use in water supplies by the EPA.
The network also claims disadvantaged communities are the most disadvantaged by fluoride because the poor and minorities tend to be more afflicted by diseases that put people at greater risk of being sensitive to fluorosis.
Numerous other claims—which could not be confirmed or denied by the Boyne City Gazette through independent official sources—include concern that fluoride may affect the brain, thyroid, pineal gland and blood sugar levels, that most developed countries do not use fluoride in their water, and that fluoride-free areas do not see higher instances of tooth decay.
The Harvard study
One information source which has been widely touted—and apparently misrepresented—is the 2012 Harvard School of Public Health meta-analysis of studies conducted by other countries.
The Harvard analysis of 27 studies (25 of which were conducted in China) considered the potential correlation between areas of China with highly-fluoridated water and instances of lowered child IQ.
Some levels in the test areas reached more than 10 times the optimal level used in American water supplies.
The analyzers found numerous conflicting instances such as adults living in highly-fluoridated areas with higher IQ and longevity than their low-fluoride counterparts, “indicating that the effect of fluoride poisoning on intellectual ability is negligible.”
“Even though many of the studies on children in China differed in many ways or were incomplete, the authors consider the data compilation and joint analysis an important first step in evaluating the potential risk,” stated authors of a July 25, 2012 article from the Harvard Public School of Health entitled “Impact of fluoride on neurological development in children.”
Only one of the 27 studies suggested that fluoridation did not lower child IQ.
“The average loss … would be approximately equivalent to seven IQ points for commonly used IQ scores,” it stated in the July 25 article… “Some studies suggested that even slightly increased fluoride exposure could be toxic to the brain. Thus, children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas.”
It was further stated, “The children studied were up to 14 years of age, but the investigators speculate that any toxic effect on brain development may have happened earlier, and that the brain may not be fully capable of compensating for the toxicity.”
Meta-analysis authors Anna Choi, a research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Harvard School of Public Health Adjunct Professor Philippe Grandjean released a Sept. 11, 2012 statement on their work.
“These results do not allow us to make any judgment regarding possible levels of risk at levels of exposure typical for water fluoridation in the U.S,” they stated. “On the other hand, neither can it be concluded that no risk is present.”
Choi and Grandjean added, “We therefore recommend further research to clarify what role fluoride exposure levels may play in possible adverse effects on brain development, so that future risk assessments can properly take into regard this possible hazard.”
Mercola recently authored an article on The Huffington Post website which echoed the Harvard analysis claims.
His article directs people to numerous other studies—the majority performed on animals—concerning brain function and fluoride which are located back on Connett’s Fluoride Action Network site.
Excerpts from studies include dozens of findings of intentional overexposure to fluoride paired with some other toxic substance—ranging from aluminum, selenium and zinc to arsenic and lead.
Back in America
The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health states that “many studies” on both people and animals have shown no association between fluoridation and the risk of developing cancer.
However, according to the cancer institute, a 1990 study by the National Toxicology Program—part of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences—revealed increased instances of bone tumors in male rats that were given highly fluoridated water over a two-year period.
“However, other studies in humans and in animals have not shown an association between fluoridated water and cancer,” stated a National Cancer Institute fact sheet.
According to the institute, a February 1991 Public Health Service (PHS) report based on more than 50 studies over 40 years said it found no evidence of an association between fluoride and cancer in humans.
In 1993, a review of data from more than 50 human studies and six animal studies revealed no association between fluoridated drinking water and cancer.
The cancer institute stated, “Subsequent interview studies of patients with osteosarcoma and their parents produced conflicting results, but with none showing clear evidence of a causal relationship.”
How fluoride was studied
“Numerous studies in naturally fluoridated areas preceded the field trials. There are no randomized, double-blind, controlled trials of water fluoridation because its community-wide nature does not permit randomization of people to study and control groups,” it stated in the report “Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General,” which was released during the tenure of U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, who served from 1998 to 2002.
Grand Rapids was the first American city to use fluoride in its water supply. Fluoridation was implemented in 1945.
“Dramatic declines in dental caries among children in Grand Rapids and three other cities conducting studies shortly thereafter led to fluoridation in many other cities,” it stated in the report. “(A)n extensive review of 95 studies conducted between 1945 and 1978 reported the modal caries reduction following water fluoridation to be between 40 and 50 percent for primary teeth and 50 and 60 percent for permanent teeth.”
The report added, “Examples in the United States, Germany, and Scotland have shown that, when fluoridation is withdrawn and there are few other fluoride exposures, the prevalence of caries (tooth decay) increases.”
The Nazi-fluoride myth
Some believe the Nazis used fluoride to make Jews docile prior to, and during, World War II. According to PolitiFact Florida—a well known debunker of myths and misinformation—the claim rated on their Truth-o-Meter as a “Pants on Fire” untruth.
“Our Holocaust historian knew of no such project. Two book authors who researched the topic, one a journalist, the other a hydrologist, found no credible evidence of such a connection,” stated the organization on its website. “A leading anti-fluoridation activist repudiates the story. The most commonly cited Web source for the story was a 16-year-old extract in a fringe Australian publication. So we can confidently declare this claim Pants on Fire!”
While all non-prescription fluoridated toothpastes are safe for kids 2 and older, children should not swallow toothpaste or risk overexposure. Kids under 2 must brush with plain water.
You cannot boil fluoride out of water; nor can it be removed by charcoal filtration systems.
Bottled water contains fluoride unless it has been de-ionized, purified or distilled so as to remove the mineral. Limits on bottled water range from 0.8 to 2.4 milligrams per liter.
Both fluoridated water and fluoridated toothpaste are recommended because they prevent tooth decay differently.
The Boyne City Commission will discuss the matter during its 7 p.m. Tuesday May 13 meeting at Boyne City Hall.