Mainely Tipping Points 36: Stopping Fluoride

Mainely Tipping Points 36



An October 13, 2011, article in “The New York Times” by Lizette Alvarez reported that about 200 jurisdictions in the United States have chosen to end fluoridation in the last four years.  The most recent is Pinellas County, on Florida’s west coast.  Eleven small cities or towns opted out this past year, including Fairbanks, Alaska. 

In Maine, municipal voters must vote directly to begin or discontinue fluoridation.  It’s difficult to patch together a list, but it seems as if the following Maine jurisdictions have voted to end fluoridation:  Mt. Desert, Jackman, Moose River, Lincoln, Seal Harbor, and Norridgewock.  In November, Damariscotta and Newcastle will vote on ending fluoridation.

In THE CASE AGAINST FLUORIDE:  HOW HAZARDOUS WASTE ENDED UP IN OUR DRINKING WATER AND THE BAD SCIENCE AND POWERFUL POLITICS THAT KEEP IT THERE (2010), Paul Connett, PhD, James Beck, MD, PhD, and H.S. Micklem, DPhil, note that since no one federal organization is in charge of the fluoridation program, stopping it at the federal level will be very difficult.  The best way, write Connett et al, is through local, democratic efforts.  After reading this book, which is an exhaustive study of the history and safety of fluoridation, I hope Camden and Rockland citizens—and other citizens of other towns–will join together to opt out of fluoridation in the near future.

When Mt. Desert voted in 2007 to end fluoridation—by a ratio of four to one—over thirty health officials met in Augusta for a press conference where they condemned the decision (Craig Idlebrook, “Mount Desert Fluoride Vote Sparks Debate,” “Working Waterfront,” 1 May 2007).  Yet, the 2006 EPA-commissioned report by a twelve-member panel of the National Research Council (NRC) had very clearly raised warning flags about fluoridation’s negative effect on the human body and had flatly stated that the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 4 ppm was not protective of human health. 

To clarify, the NRC is part of the National Academies.  And, the 2006 NRC report is the most recent report from the National Academy of Sciences on fluoridation.  The twelve panel members were told to review toxicologic, epidemiologic, and clinical data on fluoride and exposure data on orally ingested fluoride from drinking water and other sources.  The panel was not charged to investigate risk-benefit assessment.  Nevertheless, as Connett et al document repeatedly and as panel member Kathleen Thiessen notes, the NRC panel implicated fluoride, even at low levels, as causing damage to human bones and teeth.  The report also implicated fluoride as adversely interfering with many systems of the body (142-147). (Parts 1 and 2, Tipping Points 34 and 35, highlight some of that information.)

 In January 2011—a full five years after the 2006 NRC report—the EPA got around to lowering their current recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 ppm to 0.7 ppm.  (But the 4 ppm MCL remains in place.)  And, in January 2011, the EPA announced it will move toward banning fluoride pesticides used on food because children are currently over-exposed to fluoride (Dan Shapley, “EPA Will Ban Fluoride Pesticide Used on Food,” 11 January 2011, 

Already, our well-meaning health officials are writing letters to local papers endorsing fluoride.  These are likely good people who want what’s best for their communities.  The mistake they are making is that they are relying on endorsements from major health organizations who have not done their own, or any, analysis or who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo—maybe because any backsliding could result in major law suits. 

So, if you see vague, uncited endorsements like “studies show,” or “the scientific evidence is clear,” seek more information because the 2006 NRC report does not support that position.  Nor do the very reputable authors of THE CASE AGAINST FLUORIDE.  Go online and poke about the NRC report yourself.  It’s on the National Academy of Sciences web page:  FLUORIDE IN DRINKING WATER:  A SCIENTIFIC REVIEW OF EPA’S STANDARDS,  Even reading the Summary is instructive. 

Remember, endorsements are not scientific inquiry.  And, the history of fluoridation is made of up endorsements piled up like a house of cards.  What has already fallen out of this face-saving mess is your health.     

As for fluoridation’s success in preventing dental caries, that case hasn’t been made.  Fluoride itself has never been subjected to rigorous, randomized clinical trials, explain Connett et al (270).  Further, communities opting out of fluoridation worldwide have not experienced increased cavities.  Indeed, Connett et al argue that benefits have been “wildly exaggerated” in the absence of good studies.  Further still, in 1999, the Center for Disease Control admitted that if fluoride works at all to strengthen teeth, it works topically, not through ingestion (13). 

So, tell me again, why are we putting it in our water, especially since it is so toxic for so many?

Also, I do think that we have to put our health officials on notice that continuing to “drink the Kool-Aid” about fluoride and not doing due diligence themselves is not ok.  We rely on our health officials for solid information, so if they are going to take a public position, I would urge them to read Connett et al and the 2006 NRC report first.  You can’t read either without rethinking fluoride drastically. 

One argument—made by James Donovan, CEO and President of the Lincoln County healthcare system, which is the Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, in THE FREE PRESS, October 24th—is that all you have to do is drink the fluoridated water to cheaply protect your teeth.  Oddly, a civil engineer from Louisiana made the following comment on this blog:

 “I know that people drink only 1/2% (one-half percent) of the water they use. The remaining 99 ½ % of the water with toxic fluoride chemical is dumped directly into the environment through the sewer system.  For example, for every $1000 of fluoride chemical added to water, $995 would be directly wasted down the drain in toilets, showers, dishwashers, etc., $5 would be consumed in water by the people, and less than $0.50 (fifty cents) would be consumed by children, the target group for this outdated practice.  That would be comparable to buying one gallon of milk, using six-and-one-half drops of it, and pouring the rest of the gallon in the sink.”

And, of course, the more fluoridated water you ingest, the bigger your dose of fluoride and the larger your risk of harm.  Just drinking the water is “not the “holistic benefit to our overall health” that Donovan claims.

The ethical and moral components of this debate are deeply troubling.  Drugging a whole community, as Connett et al note, not only puts subsets of the population (like babies, diabetics, the elderly, the ill, the allergic) at real risk, this practice violates each person’s right to give informed consent, which is both “an ethical obligation and a legal requirement…in all fifty states of the United States” (3-4). Note too that in 2006, the American Dental Association advised against giving babies fluoridated water (“10 Facts about Fluoride,” Fluoride Action Network web site).  Poor families are faced with buying distilled water for formula—water that likely comes in a plastic bottle which brings into play a whole new set of contaminants.         

Why is our medical community, which must abide by legal requirements about informed consent in their work place, so willing to ignore them with regard to fluoride?  Especially since, as Connett et al note, tooth decay “is neither life threatening nor contagious at the community level” (269). 

So, I’m looking to young parents, especially, to work together to organize a vote to end fluoridation in Camden and Rockland.  Protect your children, yes.  But prevent, also, the skeletal fluorosis that is likely masquerading as arthritis when you become a senior citizen.