Fluoride: The Good, The Bad And The Political Implications

We all know that fluoride is effective in preventing tooth decay. So why is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acting to lower the agency’s maximum recommended limit of fluoride in water supplies?

According to a statement from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced plans to issue an official recommendation that the level of fluoride in drinking water be lowered from 1.2 milligrams per liter to 0.7 milligrams per liter. The action comes in response to scientific research cited by EWG concluding that excess fluoride can cause deterioration of tooth enamel and thyroid disruption, among other health complications – even bone cancer.

But the results of the studies are inconclusive and based on a single faulty study, and the link between fluoride and cancer has not been proven. The EWG maintains that although fluoride should continue to be added to toothpaste, it should be completely eliminated from drinking water. However, the group cites only one study in making its recommendation for going cold turkey.

Suppose the EPA moves to adopt EWG’s recommendation as the legal fluoride limit, without knowing the consequences. Will our teeth rot away? No, the EWG refutes, because fluoride will remain in toothpaste. But what if removing fluoride has a broader impact on the national health and dental system?

Let’s presume, for instance, that the removing of fluoride from water supplies leads to a mass of dental problems among the population. Insurance companies, in turn, refuse to pay for dental procedures and jack up their rates. Employers stop offering dental insurance to their employees. There’s the same turmoil in Congress that we saw with the health-care fiasco. Partisanship swells yet again.

Just like any self-proclaimed tree-hugger, I advocate for the elimination of toxins and harmful substances from our environment. But the EPA should be cautious about blindly adopting guidance from an organization that has, in my opinion, failed to prove its argument.

Limiting the levels of fluoride – and all chemicals – from our drinking water is straight-up common sense. But let’s be cautious about returning to a pre-1940s-era system. After all, down the road, we might find that the fluoride-bashing research was funded or supported by out-of-work dentists.

Cynicism aside, moderation is key. All in favor of limiting fluoride levels, say “Ahh.”


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