ATLANTA (AP) - Fluoride in drinking water _ credited with dramatically cutting cavities and tooth decay _ may now be too much of a good thing. Getting too much of it causes spots on some kids’ teeth.
A reported increase in the spotting problem is one reason the federal government said Friday it plans to lower the recommended levels for fluoride in water supplies _ the first such change in nearly 50 years.
About 2 out of 5 adolescents have tooth streaking or spottiness because of too much fluoride, a surprising government study found recently. In some extreme cases, teeth can even be pitted by the mineral _ though many cases are so mild only dentists notice it. The problem is generally considered cosmetic.
Health officials note that most communities have fluoride in their water supplies, and toothpaste has it too. Some kids are even given fluoride supplements.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is proposing changing the recommended fluoride level to 0.7 milligrams per liter of water. And the Environmental Protection Agency will review whether the maximum cutoff of 4 milligrams per liter is too high.
The standard since 1962 has been a range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the splotchy tooth condition, fluorosis, is unexpectedly common in kids ages 12 through 15. And it appears to have grown much more common since the 1980s.
“One of the things that we’re most concerned about is exactly that,” said an administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly before the release of the report. The official described the government’s plans in an interview with The Associated Press.
But there are other concerns, too. A scientific report five years ago said that people who consume a lifetime of too much fluoride _ an amount over EPA’s limit of 4 milligrams _ can lead to crippling bone abnormalities and brittleness.
That and other research issued Friday by the EPA about health effects of fluoride are sure to re-energize groups that still oppose adding it to water supplies.
The American Dental Association released a statement applauding the government announcement to change fluoride guidance.
Fluoride is a mineral that exists naturally in water and soil. About 70 years ago, scientists discovered that people whose supplies naturally had more fluoride also had fewer cavities. Some locales have naturally occurring fluoridation levels above 1.2. Today, most public drinking water is fluoridated, especially in larger cities. An estimated 64 percent of Americans drink fluoridated water.
Portland, Ore., is one of the largest cities that doesn’t fluoridate its water.
Maryland is the most fluoridated state, with nearly every resident on a fluoridated system. In contrast, only about 11 percent of Hawaii residents are on fluoridated water, according to government statistics.View Entire Story
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