Archive for the ‘Fluoridation’ Category

Public Water Fluoridation or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mass Medication

Early last week, the EPA announced a joint effort with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to update guidelines and standards for fluoride in drinking water.

Photo by petit hiboux. Some rights reserved.

HHS is proposing to lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water to 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water (the low end of their current recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams), while the EPA is looking into lowering the maximum enforceable amount of fluoride allowed in drinking water. These changes were prompted by the EPA’s own updated risk assessment of fluoride, which was itself prompted by a report from the National Academies of Science (NAS) recommending the EPA re-evaluate their “health and exposure assessments.” These assessments will help the EPA determine whether current maximum fluoride amounts are appropriate.

Fluoridation of water (the controlled addition of sodium fluoride, fluorosilicic acid, or sodium fluorosilicate to a public water system) became widely used in the US in the 1960s as a means of widespread tooth decay prevention. It was cited – along with “healthier foods” – by the CDC as one of Ten Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th century.

While there is no federal regulation mandating fluoridation, many states or cities voluntarily fluoridate their water systems based on the recommendations from organizations such as HSS, WHO, or CDC. However, under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA is required to set national standards regarding the maximum allowable levels of fluoride in drinking water in order to prevent such crippling conditions as skeletal fluorosis, which is caused by excessive amounts of fluoride.

The current enforceable drinking water standard for fluoride is 4.0 mg/L. Of course, recommended fluoridation levels can change as the public becomes exposed to more sources of fluoride (today’s toothpastes and mouthwashes are often awash with fluoride), which is one reason the EPA and HSS are taking action.

But this wouldn’t be a topic of environmental regulation if it didn’t have its share of controversy. If you type “water fluoridation” into Google, the second suggested search is “water fluoridation conspiracy.” The Wikipedia article dedicated solely to the debate describes fluoridation of public water systems, in the eyes of a theorist, as “a form of compulsory mass medication,” and “a violation of ethical or legal rules that prohibit medical treatment without medical supervision or informed consent.”

Is someone administering you fluoride without your consent? Find the fluoridation status of your water system with CDC’s “My Water’s Fluoride” tool or browse Consumer Confidence Reports from select community water systems.

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