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Comments on fluoride

I would like to comment on a recent column in the Picayune Item entitled “Fluoride – Helpful or Harmful?” by Donna Knezevich. In the column Ms. Knezevich suggests that fluoridation be discontinued in the State of Mississippi. She portrays fluoride as a waste product, a “by-product of aluminum, explosives, and fertilizer manufacture.”

What she failed to mention is the fact that fluoride is a naturally occurring element found in nature like oxygen, hydrogen, and calcium. It is found in virtually all well water in the United States at varying levels. She proclaims it to be a “corrosive poison” and makes many unsubstantiated claims of illnesses attributed to fluoride.

Like many chemicals found in nature, fluoride, if taken in very high amounts, can have negative effects most notably a cosmetic condition known as Mottled Enamel. Weakening of bones can also occur when vey high levels of fluoride are chronically ingested. In recommended levels these conditions are not seen.

She cited “studies” alleging problems associated with fluoride without providing identification or documentation of said “studies”.  She goes so far as to claim that in WWII Nazis fluoridated drinking water in its concentration camps to sedate prisoners.

This claim has never been substantiated and has been labeled “an urban myth” by officials with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Her claim that the EPA allows less fluoride in industrial discharge than that allowed in our drinking water is misleading. In 1986 the EPA established a maximum level for fluoride in drinking water of 4.0 mg/L and requires systems to take steps to keep levels from exceeding that level.

It also recommends a voluntary level of 2 mg/L to avoid cosmetic damage to teeth and requires suppliers to notify consumers when the level exceeds that amount. The regulation of communal water supplies is the responsibility of local governments and most follow the Center for Disease Control recommendation that fluoride levels be adjusted to 0.7 mg/L for maximum benefits.

The columnist’s claim that “the FDA has not approved fluoride for water treatment” is also misleading. Communal water supplies are not under FDA control but bottled water is. In 2006 the FDA approved fluoride levels of 0.6 -1.0 mg/L in bottled drinking water. I am concerned that your readers will make health care decisions based on the inaccurate information and unsubstantiated claims contained in her column.

What is known is that the National Institute of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization have all endorsed the regulation of fluoride levels in community water supplies to maintain optimum levels. At 0.7 ppm (0.7 mg/L) fluoride has been proven to prevent dental caries and improve bone health without adverse health risks. Their acceptance is based on a multitude of scientific studies not dozens of reports of anecdotal evidence. Such studies employ strict testing methods and subject selection to ensure that the conclusions of the study are valid.

The data collected is subjected to statistical analysis to determine the accuracy of the study’s results. Not all studies are scientifically accurate but unfortunately that does not prevent them from being published in journals and on websites that lack proper peer review and standards of accuracy. All one has to do is type in a subject into an internet search engine and find any number of web sites full of “studies” proclaiming a theory backed up by anecdotal evidence at best. The column in question seems to have drawn heavily from these websites.

Access to dental care is a growing concern in these economically challenging times, we can ill afford a campaign to revoke a proven public health measure like optimized fluoride levels in community drinking water. I would urge residents of Pearl River County to visit the American Dental Associations web site, www.ada.org/fluoride, for factual information on fluoridation. The Center for Disease Control is also an excellent source of factual, scientifically proven information. Their website is http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/.

By Patrick Echs, DDS