There’s fluoride in my water?

18 10 2011

By Marissa Fessenden

Today, 64 percent of Americans will drink and bathe in fluoridated water.

Meanwhile Watsonville, CA is at the end of a decade-long debate and legal battle to keep fluoride out of their drinking water. The California Dental Association offered to pay for installation of fluoridation equipment to protect the community from dental decay. After a court case, the city was ordered to fluoridate the water or start paying a fine for each unfluoridated day. Soon the city will be installing a fluoridation system and adding fluoride to the drinking water. Watsonville has a determined opposition against fluoridating the water. As an intern at Santa Cruz Sentinel, I am researching the science and questions surrounding drinking water fluoridation. I will be a contributing reporter to a longer article on fluoridation in Wastonville in a few weeks.

photo by Marissa Fessenden

Most people against fluoridating water do not believe that it is a communist plot to keep the population docile. And I don’t mean to belittle their concerns. Stanley Kubrick’s movie is the first thing that many people think of when they aren’t aware of the discussion surrounding water fluoridation.

And if you haven’t seen Dr. Strangelove, get thee to a video rental place.

Anti-fluoridation activists cite some of the following concerns: Fluoride is not effective at reducing tooth decay. Fluoride causes health problems  (large doses are poisonous, true, but the evidence on whether it causes cancer is pretty slim). Fluoridating water is too expensive to justify. Fluoridating water is mass compulsory medication. Meanwhile, the CDC has community water fluoridation listed as one of the 10 Great Public Health Achievements in the 20thcentury.

            Fluoridation of drinking water began in 1945 and in 1999 reaches an estimated 144 million persons in the United States. Fluoridation safely and inexpensively benefits both children and adults by effectively preventing tooth decay, regardless of socioeconomic status or access to care. Fluoridation has played an important role in the reductions in tooth decay (40%-70% in children) and of tooth loss in adults (40%-60%).

I don’t mean to pull my punches here. But I don’t want to spend time addressing these points here in this blog post. I will be addressing those concerns in the newspaper article, so stay tuned! For now, I’m interested in why a practice with more than 60 years of government backing and extensive published research papers is still hotly contested by a few people.

In this (now too long) post, I try to understand the challenges people have in wrapping their mind around water fluoridation. Read the rest of this entry »