A common hoax that often manifests itself as a pop psychology “experiment” on fear, gullibility, and a lack of scientific literacy involves the chemical dihydrogen monoxide. Hoax victims are often warned of the dangers of this very common chemical: it is a main component of acid rain;can be dangerous in gaseous, liquid, and solid form; it contributes to erosion and rusting; and it is often found in excised tumors from cancer patients. Despite these dangers, the hoax warns, we all ingest or come into contact with this chemical every day. It is then revealed that dihydrogen monoxide is, of course, water.
I bring this point up to illustrate an issue that has been happening in the fluoride debate across the country. Anti-fluoride advocates prey on the fears that many people have of “unnatural” chemicals in what we consume. Instead of focusing on legitimate science, these advocates will often cherry-pick certain studies (there is one in particular that I will focus on below) in order to show that fluoride is dangerous. I will agree on one point with these advocates-fluoride, at certain high levels, definitely has negative health benefits. However, an overview of the scientific literature clearly shows that fluoride in a water system can have positive health benefits, especially in places where people lack access to proper dental care.
What professional organizations say…
American Association of Pediatrics–“Water fluoridation continues to be one of the most important tools in our toolbox to prevent tooth decay in children and adults.” Support the US Department of Health and Human Services recommendation of 0.7mg/L to help with dental caries while limiting the risk of dental fluorosis.
Centers for Disease Control–The Centers for Disease Control named water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 21st century. The CDC has statements on the science of fluoridation as well as the economic impact of water fluoridation on communities.
American Dental Association–The ADA quotes scientific research that water fluoridation holds greatest promise in preventing childhood dental caries in its recommendation that communities pursue water fluoridation.
US Department of Health and Human Services–The US Department of Public Health recommends fluoridation to the 0.7mg/L level, which it recently changed from 0.7-1.2mg/L. They say that even though there has been an increase in availability of fluoride in dental products, they do still recommend that communities fluoridate their water to that level (which is also recommended to decrease risk of dental fluorosis).
The recent study that anti-fluoride advocates quote, and why you don’t need to worry about it…
In 2012, Harvard scientists wrote an article entitled “Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Published in a well-regarded journal, the article gained popularity thanks to a write-up on the Huffington Post (which has a strained relationship with good science) by Dr. Joseph Mercola (a favorite target of legitimate science writers and skeptics).
The article is an analysis of studies done mostly in rural mining communities in China. This is one of many problems from the article, and here are some others that I have gleaned from a variety of scientists who have written in response to the study:
- The studies examined looked at places with significant naturally occurring fluoride levels, higher than when it is put into the water supply
- The authors did not have complete information on the studies, so they were not replicable
- The studies did not have much in the way of compounding variables, i.e. education
The authors of the Harvard study itself admit to many of the flaws of the study, including that many of the studies they looked at were flawed and that their meta-analysis brought questions to light, but did not necessarily provide specific answers beyond saying that high levels of fluoride were potentially hazardous to neurological development. Unfortunately, many of the anti-fluoridation advocates were duped by people like Dr. Mercola, who was given a loudspeaker by the Huffington Post where he chose to further his alternative medicine agenda instead of writing an objective article about what the study said and its limitations.
A brief history water fluoridation in Wilmington…
In 1969, the State of Ohio passed a law requiring fluoridation of water supplies for municipalities of 5,000 people or more. In 1970, thirty communities (including Wilmington) voted to exempt themselves from this law. Currently, Wilmington is joined by twenty-one other communities in the state of Ohio in not fluoridating its water.
Since then, the issue has come up a few other times in Wilmington. In 1986, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a story about the debate in council. Council members at the time appeared to favor it, but in the debate various illnesses and developmental issues were (wrongly) linked to fluoride treatment. David Hockaday, a city council member at the time who is still fighting against fluoride, was quoted as saying he had textbooks and research to look at the downside of water fluoridation. As anyone reading this knows, nothing ended up happening at the time regarding water fluoridation.
The current plan and the current debate…
The current plan, according to Water Committee Chairperson Kelsey Swindler, has been developed with the recommendations from the US Depatment of Public Health and requirements from the Ohio Revised Code. The goal is to have the lowest effective fluoridation, recommended by the US Department of Public Health while still following Ohio law, which requires that communities fluoridate their water to 0.8mg/L. According to Swindler, City Water Superintendent Jerry Rowlands has estimated startup costs to be around $29,000. However, from grant money available from the Ohio Department of Health Oral Health Project, the city would likely be able to cover much of the start up money.
The current debate has been much quieter, potentially because there is so much more evidence out there that supports water fluoridation. Mr. Hockaday has continued some of his arguments from years ago, although less vociferously. There will inevitably be some out there who appeal to fear about chemicals in the water, which is an appeal to nature that is not backed up by good science.
Now is the time to fluoridate our water. We have seen nearly one hundred years of science, almost all of it supporting fluoridation. The reports that haven’t have mostly warned about fluoridation in large quantities, which thanks to current technology can be controlled. As a city, we must encourage our city council members to ignore the clamoring of those loudly appealing to fears about the government trying to force chemicals into our bodies. We must help protect our most vulnerable children and adults, those that do not have access to appropriate care from damaging and harmful dental caries. It is time for Wilmington to join countless other communities who have worked to better public health and move forward with a community fluoridation plan.
4 thoughts on “It’s Time for Wilmington to Fluoridate its Water”
I completely agree with you re: fluoridation. Wilmington should have done many years ago. Better late than never, I respectfully urge council to act.
I am not a conspiracy theorist nor am I an alarmist who thinks Communists are poisoning America.
Nearly 98 percent of the European population does NOT fluoridate its water systems. They have almost the SAME number of dental cavity frequency as the United States, who has 72 percent of its communities fluoridating. It has never been proven that ingesting fluoride protects teeth from cavities. Topical application-yes: there is proof for using toothpaste and brushing your teeth.
In the most recent 2015 Clinton County health assessment, there is no mention of dental health. There’s mental health, diabetes and cancer…but I don’t see anything that would indicate that dental health is an issue. If fluoridation is a problem, why is it not addressed in our community’s most important directive about health?
I could find no other statistics that would draw the conclusion that there is a cavity problem in Clinton County and fluoridation will fix it.
Fluoride is a neurotoxin and it is a by-product of the manufacture of fertilizer. The government agency that supervises fluoridation, our EPA, has said as recently as 2011, that many communities are putting too much in the water and recommended lowering the number.
That was after the CDC discovered teenagers were showing the signs of too much fluoride. In 2010 the CDC recognized that 40 percent of teenagers had fluorosis–that’s brown mottle stains on the teeth.
If it is in the water system, there is no way to ensure that a baby who drinks formula made with a mixture of tap water and dry Enfamil or Siimilac is getting too much fluoride. That goes for anyone who drinks the recommended amount of water or more.
The history of fluoridation in the United States is crazy–with so little scientific research, communities began putting it into their water systems. It became policy without much real study and it is now regulated by the agency that is supposed to protect our environment, not our health.
If Wilmington has the estimated $10,000 annually for fluoridation, why not just give people toothpaste? I think of this issue in the same way as the motorcycle helmet debate. Allow people to come to their own conclusions about what is healthy and safe. Don’t mandate it.
I think you make some interesting points. First of all,there are many scholarly articles posted in reputable journals that say that community water fluoridation does have a positive effect on tooth decay, even when controlling for the effects of topical fluoridation.
As far as Europe is concerned, they have better access to healthcare in many countries. The issues we have are access to dental care, because dentists can take different insurances and can leave out Medicaid entirely. In some rural areas of the country, we sometimes see 1 dentist for every 10-15,000 people. So it is an apples and oranges comparison in a lot of ways with Europe.
We have now had almost 100 years of research on fluoridation. Much of it has been about fluorosis. This in part has led to current CDC recommendations on the levels, which are backed up by international health organizations.
The whole thing about it being a neurotoxin and a byproduct of fertilizer is accurate, but it is a neurotoxin at very high levels. Lots of things have damaging effects on the body at high levels.
As far as it not being a big part of the health study in Wilmington, I’m not sure why that is. But does it matter? The idea behind a program like this would be to prevent future issues. Additionally, we might not know about a lot of the issues because the people with the issues don’t have the access to even make doctors aware.
Thanks for the reply, Tyler.
I know there is plenty of justification for fluoridation from health educated sources. There’s plenty of research on the other side of the fence, too.
I see this differently than you do–our water systems are in danger from a variety of fronts. In my opinion, it would be best not to put more chemicals in water, especially when the goal is health. It took the EPA fifty years to connect the research about fluorosis and the correct amount of fluoride. It’s concerning that the EPA doesn’t know the correct maximum.
Part of the problem is not that people do not have dental insurance plans (according to a 2008 assessment by the state we have about the same number of people on dental plans as our surrounding county neighbors). Some of this problem has to do with actually going to the dentist and following through with a toothbrush. There is dentist fear.
A health assessment is supposed to validate plans for the future based on the problems. If dental health was on that assessment, I would have felt that this is something our community should tackle.
I am grateful that Kelsey Swindler Guindon and the rest of the committee will allow the voters to decide.
That’s a just plan and will allow our community the opportunity to think/discuss the overall health of their neighbors.