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Fluoridation (Re)education

by Joel Landau

The lady is pissed. “Somebody has to point out that the fluoridation emperor has no clothes,” she says. She’s taken this job on herself. But I’m ahead of myself— The 2008 Material Safety Data Sheet for HYDROFLUOROSILICIC ACID states: “EMERGENCY OVERVIEW: DANGER! CORROSIVE. Causes severe burns to eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. Harmful if inhaled. Harmful if swallowed. Contact with water may generate toxic, irritating and corrosive gases.” This substance, hydrofluorosilicic acid, also known as HFS, is the chemical used to fluoridate Greensboro’s water. Water Department employees have to wear full body hazardous material protective gear when handling it. When HFS is added to our water, it is diluted to supposedly safe levels. But it turns out that “safe” is a controversial judgment call. Fluoridation causes tooth discoloration known as dental fluorosis, now seen in 36 percent of white children and 58 percent of black children. In moderate and severe forms fluorosis can negatively affect a child’s self-image. Cosmetic dentistry to hide it is expensive.

Fluoride is a neurotoxin and hormone disruptor. Fluoridated water is associated with hip fractures (by making the bones brittle), joint problems, lower IQ, ADHD and low thyroid. Folks, this is nasty stuff. The HFS we use to fluoridate our water is a toxic byproduct of fertilizer production; it’s costly for the manufacturer to dispose of properly. Then it was discovered they could save that expense and actually earn a few bucks by selling it for use as a fluoridating agent. So why do we add HFS to our water? Because back in the 1940s some studies were done that concluded that sodium fluoride in the water reduced the rate of cavities. These early studies didn’t use HFS, and their methodology has since been discredited.

Since those early days of fluoridation we’ve learned that fluoride’s effect on teeth is topical. That means you have to apply it directly to the tooth surface to get a positive effect. Drinking it doesn’t help you resist cavities. Many studies show that since WWII tooth decay has declined at the same rate whether or not water is fluoridated. Indeed, many cities and most European countries have ended their fluoridation programs.

Fluoridation of the municipal water supply violates personal liberty. Generally speaking, government does not mandate medical treatment. Vaccinations are an exception. With vaccines the argument is made that an unvaccinated person puts the vaccinated people at risk. There is no such argument with fluoridation. Whether or not I drink fluoridated water has no impact on your risk of getting a cavity. Also, fluoridated toothpaste is readily available. Each person can make their own decision whether to use it. When we put fluoride in the city’s water, people lose their individual choice.

Greensboro City Council’s Infrastructure Committee received an informational report this month on Greensboro’s fluoridation program. Water Resources Director Steven Drew reported that the annual cost of fluoridation is about $90,000. This includes the cost of complying with OSHA safety regulations to safeguard employees handling the highly corrosive HFS. He noted that if Greensboro ceased adding fluoride to its water, people would still receive some fluoride. This is because there is a residual amount naturally occurring in the water. Plus, many of the prepared foods we consume are made with fluoridated water. And many people use fluoride toothpaste and/or receive fluoride treatments from their dentist. Also, some of Greensboro’s water comes from High Point, Burlington and Reidsville, each of which fluoridates their water. Mr. Drew’s report noted that if City Council ended the fluoridation program, it would not affect water quality.

Merle Green, director of Guilford County’s Department of Public Health, spoke in favor of fluoridation, stating the official position on the subject. Her remarks brought to mind a conversation I had years ago with my friend Vic. He was a dentist who had retired after decades of doing children’s dentistry for Guilford County’s Health Department. Dr. Vic was a positive, easy-going guy – not one to rock the boat. I asked him what he thought about the merits of fluoridating the water. Vic’s face turned serious as he answered in a low voice so as not to be overheard going against the official line: “Applying fluoride works topically; but drinking it doesn’t do any good.”

The CDC acknowledged in 1999 that the action of fluoride on teeth is topical and not systemic. Despite this admission and scores of studies and new information that have accumulated in recent years, there is still pressure on health professionals to support the “conventional wisdom.” People have lost their jobs for not towing the line. In the early years of fluoridation it seemed to be a good thing. But that perception has been debunked. We now know it brings an array of health problems, plus the expense of fluoridating the water, the safety risk for employees and the denial of individual choice.

Four speakers at the Infrastructure Committee meeting spoke against fluoridation.

(Disclosure: I was one of them.) Ehren Nagel, one of the speakers, voiced this concern: “I believe that as a parent it is my right and my duty to make informed medical decisions to protect my daughter’s health. I think that, no matter how good the intentions, adding a medication with known complications and side effects to the water supply where the dosage for each child cannot be known or controlled and where there is no informed consent for treatment from parents is wrong.”

Some people are concerned that ending fluoridation would hurt poor people, since it is a free program. This is well-intentioned but mistaken. Fluoridation does not contribute to dental health. It DOES contribute to an array of health problems, including ADHD and lower IQ.

So back to the lady I started with: Janet Nagel, EdD. Ms. Nagel is a retired health education professional and was one of the speakers at the Committee meeting. She says “My son has dental fluorosis. I’ve learned, contrary to what we’re supposed to believe, fluoridation is not safe.” Janet has become a tireless anti-fluoridation activist. Her group’s new website contains an encyclopedic collection of scientific studies and articles on the issue. I urge you to check it out at http://www.cleanwatergso.org/. You’ll also find a petition to end fluoridation of Greensboro’s water. Because indeed, the fluoridation emperor is buck naked.

“Fluoride has a protecting action against (tooth decay), but this is a local (topical) effect. If you drink it, you are running the risk of all kinds of toxic actions. . . . This is something you shouldn’t expose citizens to.” – Arvid Carlsson, MD, PhD 2000 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine!

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