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GUEST OPINION: The case against fluoridating water

  • Stephen Fuller-Rowell

The Sonoma County Water Coalition includes 31 organizations representing more than 24,000 concerned citizens. Coalition members strongly support policies for delivering medical and dental care to children, disabled adults and those in disadvantaged segments of our population. However, we do not support fluoridation of public water supplies.

Here's why most members of the coalition disagree with almost every organization in the medical establishment on the merits of fluoridation and oppose adding fluoride to drinking water:

Fluoridation is not the best way to improve dental health. World Health Organization data show greater dental health improvements in countries that do not fluoridate than in countries that do. For example, in 1978 the average Danish and Swedish 12-year-old had more than six decayed, missing or filled teeth. Twenty-seven years later, the average was less than one decayed, missing or filled tooth. Neither Denmark nor Sweden add fluoride to drinking water. Poor dental health appears to be a better indicator of an uneven distribution of wealth, education and health services than of a lack of fluoride. In fact, a growing number of communities in the United States are now ending their fluoridation programs.

Fluoridation comes with real health concerns. At levels only eight times greater than recommended, ingesting fluoride can lead to fluorosis (mottled teeth) and brittle bones which can increase the incidence of hip fractures in an aging community and other health problems. But because fluoride is added to toothpaste, soft drinks and other consumables, getting too much fluoride has become a risk for fluoridated communities.

In 2003, an organization representing more than 1,500 scientists, lawyers and other professionals employed by the Environmental Protection Agency published a statement of concern about the adverse health effects of fluoridation. In response, the recommended dosing level was lowered from 0.9 parts per million to 0.7 parts per million. This is an appropriate issue for applying the Precautionary Principle: If in doubt, don't do it.

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