The Debate Over Adding Fluoride In Our
The debate over the positives and negatives of
the addition of fluoride to drinking water has raged on for quite
some time. Surveys done by water companies across the United
States have indicated an even split between opponents and supporters
of the practice.
Adding fluoride to public water supplies has been credited with being responsible
for the decline in tooth decay within the United States since the mid-1980s.
Affordable and convenient, it has been lauded as an important advancement
in overall health and helps to protect against cavities.
The American Dental Association’s official
position on fluoride is that it is completely safe for humans
(if controlled at below recommended levels) - a position shared
by many other health organizations.
Fluoride addition is sometimes viewed especially
important in low-income areas, where access to non-water sources
of fluoride (such as toothpastes) is limited to residents.
Although it is up to each individual water supplier as to whether to add fluoride,
the Environmental Protection Agency has set a maximum level of 4 mg/L fluoride
for human consumption. Consumption at higher levels over time has been proven
to cause painful bone disease.
However, even at this level, fluoride can cause
dental fluorosis, or browning and pitting of the teeth, in young
children. Thus far, it is only known to affect developing teeth
before they come up through the gums. An estimated 10-15% of
young people who receive the recommended dose of fluoride suffer
from some degree of fluorosis. Children nine and under should
not consume water with fluoride levels exceeding 2 mg/L.
While credited for decreasing cavities among Americans,
extensive studies have shown a surprising similarity in increased
dental health in both communities with and without fluoridated
water. It follows that the decrease in tooth decay may be better
credited to an improvement in dental health care, earlier intervention,
and the prevalence of fluoride in toothpastes and other mouth
products, although further research is still necessary.
The Risks Outweigh The Benefits
Propaganda on both sides of the fluoridation debate has seriously clouded the
ability to be objective as to the pros and cons of adding fluoride to public
water supply. When scrutinized, the improvement in dental health over the
last two decades is better attributed to improved diets and better (and earlier)
dental care than to fluoridated water alone.
Fluoride does offer cavity-prevention - in limited
quantities. However, water suppliers who follow the maximum EPA
guidelines put young children and their developing teeth at risk
for disease, as the maximum fluoride level is twice that of the
recommended level for children.
Given the prevalence of fluoride in toothpaste,
mouth rinses, and other dental products, combined with semi-annual
fluoride treatments from a dentist, the addition of fluoride
to public water supplies or in bottled water is an unnecessary
endeavour that can, in fact, be detrimental to long-term dental
and overall health.
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There's lots more information on this topic
to be found at the Fluoride
Action Network website.
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