By Brigitte Mars
Next to air, pure water is the most essential nutrient for life. In our modern world, however, municipal drinking water is rife with chemicals. Granted, some of those, like chlorine, kill dangerous bacteria and make water safe to drink.
But others are, considered by some authorities, even harmful. One of the most controversial is the addition of fluoride to drinking water, which some say will help make tooth enamel more resistant to bacteria and help prevent cavities in children. But the safety of fluoride is questionable.
Fluoride is not a nutrient, but a nonessential trace mineral, the thirteenth most common element found in the earth’s crust. Unlike minerals such as calcium and magnesium, fluoride has never been found essential for human life. The fluoride added to drinking water is not pharmaceutical grade fluoride, but is actually hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFS) from the scrubbing systems of phosphate companies, fertilizer companies or other industries. HFS has never been approved for safety or effectiveness by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Implying its safety has never been tested. Fluoride is a known industrial pollutant; more toxic than lead, non-biodegradable, and very expensive to dispose of. Fluoride is the second largest pollutant in Canada and, during The Cold War, was blamed for more environmental damage than the 20 other major air pollutants combined. Because fluoride emissions from the smokestacks of numerous industries were contaminating surrounding crops and livestock, and causing a flurry of lawsuits, the companies started capturing it in their air scrubbers and ultimately distributing it to cities. Fluorocarbons, another common pollutant, are made by fluoride being tightly bonded to carbon atoms; they are found in plastics, aerosol sprays, pesticides and fire-fighting foams. Even one part hydrogen fluoride in the air can etch glass.
The idea of putting fluoride in American water supplies came from the Mellon Institute, the main research facility for ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America), which also happens to be one of the largest fluoride polluters in the world. How convenient to have a method of disposing of an industrial pollutant at the taxpayer’s expense! By the mid-1930s, fluoride was linked by European scientists to respiratory disorders, central nervous system problems and musculoskeletal ailments. More than a dozen countries—including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Holland, India, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Sweden—have decided to ban fluoride within their borders. There’s no question that fluoride can be harmful. Fluorine tends to displace iodine in the body, and thus can be a contributing factor in thyroid enlargement, hypothyroid function or hyperthyroid function. Additionally, fluoride rapidly bind to calcium in the body, causing the cell membranes to harden, and inhibit collagen production. They break down the sulfhydral links composing the protein-based connective tissues. Fluoride combines with stomach acids to form hydrofluoric acid, which can dissolve protein (and also steel and glass). Like lead, fluoride can also accumulate in the bones. Yet the amounts consumed in water are said to be at safe levels. However people certainly drink various amounts of water.
Fluoride does not prevent dental caries when ingested; it is only considered effective when applied topically, not swallowed. In fact, large amounts of fluoride are actually harmful to teeth, and can cause mottling, unsightly and permanent blotches on the teeth, and only very small quantities of fluoride are necessary. Each tube of fluoride toothpaste contains between 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of fluoride–enough to harm a small child.
In 1945, the Public Health Service scheduled a ten-year, double-blind study in which the waters of Newburg, New York would be fluoridated, while the waters of nearby Kingston , New York would not be. After only five years, the study was abruptly halted after the children in fluoridated Newburg had 50 percent more dental decay than in Kingston. It is also curious that other studies examining the effects of fluoridated water on dental caries were done with calcium fluoride, but what actually goes into municipal water supplies is sodium fluoride. In spite of these findings, in 1945, water fluoridation began in Grand Rapids , Michigan.
Those who objected to fluoridation of water-often well-respected physicians and scientists–were frequently slandered and intimidated. Although the decision to fluoridate is usually a local city ore water district decision, there have been some attempts to make fluoridation a requirement under state law. Fluoride proponents claim that fluoride makes dental enamel more resistant to the acids in foods.
Wouldn’t it be wiser to limit sugar intake, floss daily and brush the teeth after every meal?
Many things that were once considered safe, benign or even beneficial are now being questioned, including the overuse of antibiotics, mercury dental fillings, herbicides, aluminum in deodorants, parabens, asbestos and synthetic hormones in food. The evidence used to sell fluoridation to the public is more than 50 years old and may need to be reevaluated.
On the other hand, fluoride safety has been studied in almost 40,000 studies since 1970, and in 1999, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention deemed that fluoridation is one of the ten great achievements of the 20th century. Many reputable groups such as The American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Water Works Association all have endorsed and rendorsed water fluoridation. It seems there is more to learn on this controversial subject.
In Boulder, Clean Water Advocates (www.bouldercwa.com) is working to inform people and give them a choice as to whether or not their water should be fluoridated.