Continued from page 1

Fluoridation has been fought for decades by people who worried about its effects, including conspiracy theorists who feared it was a plot to make people submissive to government power.

Those battles continue.

“It’s amazing that people have been so convinced that this is an OK thing to do,” said Deborah Catrow said Friday. She successfully fought a ballot proposal in 2005 that would have added fluoride to drinking water in Springfield, Ohio.

Reducing fluoride would be a good start, but she hopes it will be eliminated altogether from municipal water supplies.

Catrow said it was hard standing up to City Hall, the American Dental Association and the state health department. “Anybody who was anti-fluoride was considered crazy at the time,” she said.

In New York, the village of Cobleskill in Schoharie County _ west of Albany _ stopped adding fluoride to its drinking water in 2007 after the longtime water superintendent became convinced the additive was contributing to his knee problems. Two years later, the village reversed the move after dentists and doctors complained.

In March, 2006, the National Academy of Sciences released a report recommending that the EPA lower its maximum standard for fluoride in drinking water to below 4 milligrams. The report warned severe fluorosis could occur at 2 milligrams. Also, a majority of the report’s authors said a lifetime of drinking water with fluoride at 4 milligrams or higher could raise the risk of broken bones.

Late last year, lawyers for the Fluoride Action Network, Beyond Pesticides, and Environmental Working Group threatened legal action if the EPA did not lower its ceiling on fluoride.

In Europe, fluoride is rarely added to water supplies. In Britain, only about 10 percent of the population has fluoridated water. It’s been a controversial issue there, with critics arguing people shouldn’t be forced to have “medical treatment” forced on them. In recent years, the UK has tried to add fluoride to communities with the worst dental health but there’s still considerable opposition.

In the early years of fluoridation in the United States, the range of levels was created because people in warmer climates drank more water, therefore getting more fluoride than cooler regions. Over time, that difference leveled out with air conditioning, the senior administration official said.

Fluorosis has generally been seen as the primary down side of fluoride.

According to the CDC, nearly 23 percent of children ages 12-15 had fluorosis in a study done in 1986 and 1987. That rose to 41 percent in the more recent study, which covered the years 1999 through 2004.

“We’re not necessarily surprised to see this slow rise in mild fluorosis,” Dr. William Kohn, director of the CDC’s division of oral health, said in a recent interview.

Health officials have hesitated to call it a problem, however. In most kids, it’s barely noticeable; even dentists have trouble seeing it, and sometimes don’t bother to tell their unknowing patients.

Meanwhile, the U.S. prevalence of tooth decay in at least one tooth among teens has declined from about 90 percent to 60 percent. Health officials call water fluoridation one of the 10 greatest public health accomplishments of the last century.

Story Continues →