The fluoride debate has has come back to Renton. We’re receiving emails and letters from citizens on both sides of this issue, and both sides are passionate. The issue will be dabated in our council chambers tomorrow at 6:00, during our Committee of the Whole meeting.
The proponents of Renton water fluoridation have generally been arguing that fluoridation has been shown safe and effective at reducing cavities, that the science was settled years ago by thousands of studies, that fluoridation helps everyone have fewer cavities especially the poor, that prominent organizations and individuals for decades have endorsed community water fluoridation, that the US has been moving toward more and more community fluoridation, that fluoridation was considered by the Center for Disease Control to be one of the 10 greatest health achievements of the 20th century, and (counter-productively) that opponents of fluoridation are conspiracy theorists.
The opponents of Renton water fluoridation argue that the science does not in fact say fluoride is safe for everyone nor is the science complete, that fluoride effectiveness when swallowed is significantly less than when applied topically, that fluoride in the water supply has not been shown in double-blind studies to reduce cavities, that fluoride should not be given to people without informed consent, that it is a “drug” that is being forced upon everyone in the entire community in an uncontrolled dose (dependent on their water consumption and the use of other fluoride products) and with no regard to their age or medical status, that far more nations on earth have rejected community water fluoridation than adopted it due to the reasons given above, and (tangentially) that it is a poison in high concentrations.
I’m paying extra close attention to this debate this time. While I grew up with community water fluoridation, believed it safe, and have never proposed eliminating fluoride from Renton’s water, two years ago I proposed lowering our fluoridation level after the EPA reduced its recommended level (which we subsequently did– click for details).
As another piece of data, a few years ago I installed a reverse osmosis filter for my daughter to remove fluoride from her water after she positively correlated painful and expensive gastrointestinal issues it to fluoride hypersensitivity– a condition recognized by the National Academy of Science (see below). Prior to cutting her fluoride intake, her condition had led to over $600 of prescription medicine per month, with an annual $10,000 colonoscopy, and a risk of possible surgery to remove her colon. After isolating fluoride as the cause, which she did by drinking water exclusively from her husband’s family well outside of Renton and then she verified by living symptom-free in Japan (where they don’t fluoridate and few products contain fluoride), she has reduced her medical expenses and symptoms to zero by eliminating fluoride from her diet. This experience did not make me convinced I needed to eliminate fluoride from the water supply, but it left me with an open mind on the topic.
In an age of information, diversity, and respect for personal choice, water-fluoridation opponents (like my daughter) are not just fringe voices anymore. In the last two months, overwhelming citizen coalitions in the two largest unfluoridated city’s in America, Portland Oregon and Wichita Kansas, have just made it clear to their leadership that they want a voice in this debate– Wichita (population 384,000) just rejected fluoridation by 59% to 41%, and Portland Oregon (population 593,000) just got the issue put on a public ballot as a referendum (collecting about 43,000 signatures in 30 days when less than 20,000 signatures were needed) after their city leaders voted to fluoridate their water. While some may say these citizens are recklessly bucking the trend set by larger US cities over the last few decades, others argue they are following the lead of the world’s greatest international cities that have rejected community fluoridation such as Tokyo, Paris, London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Rome to name just a few.
On November 16th, as I was trying to make sense of all of this, I received an email from our City Utilities department sending me to an official CDC website for definitive information on Fluoride.
The email read: “Please find below a link to the CDC’s website on fluoride. There is a lot of very good information on fluoridation on this site. The CDC touts fluoridation of public water supplies as one of the 10 best health innovations of recent times. ” The email contained a link to the CDC website. CDC Community Water Fluoridation
Okay, I thought. When controversy strikes, I should follow the process. Hence, I followed my city staff’s recommendation, went to the CDC site, and familiarized myself with the safety studies.
On the Center for Disease Control Site, I clicked Safety, then National Academy of Science, and then their 2006 report for EPA, per the tree below:
And I found something I never expected. Far from showing that the science is resolved, the CDC site directs readers to a study prepared for the EPA by the National Academy of Science in 2006 (seven years after the CDC proclaimed fluoride one of the greatest health achievements of the 20th century); the National Academy of Science Study says there may be linkages between community water fluoridation and reduced brain development (lower IQ), bladder cancer, Alzheimers, diabetes, auto-immune disease, gastro-intestinal illnesses, brittle bones, accute florosis, downs syndrome, and a host of other problems. The CDC also says on their website that while originally community water fluoridation was thought to reduce cavities by 50% to 60%, today they now believe the benefit may be (18%-40%) reduction in cavities because of all the other sources of fluoride.
This data from CDC struck me as a LOT of risks of EXTREMELY serious illness, reduced brain functioning, and pain and suffering– to get as little as 18 % reduction in cavities, and I expect readers will want to see it for themselves. As you read through it, remember that it is the data from the PROPONENTS of water-fluoridation. I would not have even had to open the email and links about poisoning our water that I received from the opponents. I have copied the link path below, along with key findings and recommendations from this report.
Here is a sample:
“…it is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain and the body by direct and indirect means. To determine the possible adverse effects of fluoride, additional data from both the experimental and the clinical sciences are needed.”
“Fluorides also increase the production of free radicals in the brain through several different biological pathways. These changes have a bearing on the possibility that fluorides act to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”…”Studies of populations exposed to different concentrations of fluoride should be undertaken to evaluate neurochemical changes that may be associated with dementia. “
“The conclusion from the available studies is that sufficient fluoride exposure appears to bring about increases in blood glucose or impaired glucose tolerance in some individuals and to increase the severity of some types of diabetes. In general, impaired glucose metabolism appears to be associated with serum or plasma fluoride concentrations of about 0.1 mg/L or greater in both animals and humans… A comparison … will show that the 0.03-0.1 mg/kg/day range will be reached by persons with average exposures at fluoride concentrations of 1-4 mg/L in drinking water, especially the children.”
“Further effort is necessary to characterize the direct and indirect mechanisms of fluoride’s action on the endocrine system”
“The primary symptoms of GI [Gastro-Intestinal] injury are nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Such symptoms have been reported in case studies and in a clinical study involving double-blind tests on subjects drinking water artificially fluoridated at 1.0 mg/L.”
“It has long been suspected that fluoride, even at concentrations below 1.2 mg/L in drinking water, over the years can increase the risk for renal calculi (kidney stones). Research on this topic, on humans and animals, has been sparse…”
“Genotoxicity tests indicate the potential for fluoride to cause mutations, affect the structure of chromosomes and other genomic material; affect DNA replication, repair, and the cell cycle; and/or transform cultured cell lines to enable them to cause tumors when implanted into host animals.”
“An association of uterine cancer (combination of cervical and corpus uteri) with fluoridation was reported by Tohyama (1996), who observed mortality rates in Okinawa before and after fluoridation was terminated, controlling for sociodemographics. This analysis is a follow-up of the positive results from a previous exploratory analysis that comprised a large number of comparisons conducted by this researcher with the same data set.”
“The combined literature described above does not clearly indicate that fluoride either is or is not carcinogenic in humans.”
“Further research on a possible effect of fluoride on bladder cancer risk should be conducted.”
“Additional research is needed on fluoride concentrations in human bone as a function of magnitude and duration of exposure, age, gender, and health status.”
“The current MCLG was designed to protect against stage III skeletal fluorosis [includes increased risk of fracture]….the committee judges that stage II [which is reached with lower levels of fluoride] is also an adverse health effect, as it is associated with chronic joint pain, arthritic symptoms, slight calcification of ligaments, and osteosclerosis of cancellous bones.”
“On the basis of this information, all members of the committee agreed that there is scientific evidence that under certain conditions fluoride can weaken bone and increase the risk of fractures.
“High-quality studies in laboratory animals over a range of fluoride concentrations (0-250 mg/L in drinking water) indicate that adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes occur only at very high concentrations. A few studies of human populations have suggested that fluoride might be associated with alterations in reproductive hormones, fertility, and Down’s syndrome, but their design limitations make them of little value for risk evaluation.”…”A reanalysis of data on Down’s syndrome and fluoride by Takahashi (1998) suggested a possible association in children born to young mothers. A case-control study of the incidence of Down’s syndrome in young women and fluoride exposure would be useful for addressing that issue. “
Looks like a lot of risk and uncertainty for an 18% reduction in cavities.
When we go into council chambers tomorrow night, and ask our followup questions of the professionals, I won’t be interested in hearing name dropping about a Surgeon General in the Reagan Administration who thought fluoridation was a good idea 30 years ago. In general, I will have little interest in recommendations from three or four decades ago– too many of the old recommendations have been invalidated through the years. I want to hear scientists address the issues raised by EPA, CDC, and National Academy of Science in the 2006 study posted on their own website.
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to give my your input about this report in the comment section below.