In what appears to be a giant step aimed to reduce the amount of fluoride added to public drinking water in the United States, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a joint statement January 7, 2011, proposing the level of fluoride added to public water to be set at 0.7 mg/L of water, which is considered to be the lowest concentration of fluoride necessary to prevent tooth decay. The current range sits between 0.7 mg/L and 1.2 milligrams, but most communities set their level of fluoride at 1.0 mg/L. Water fluoridation has been around since 1945 in the United States. The current guidelines for water fluoridation have been in place since 1962... That would be 49 years, to be exact. Here is an excerpt from the press release as to why the levels are changing:
"HHS and EPA reached an understanding of the latest science on fluoride and its effect on tooth decay prevention and the development of dental fluorosis that may occur with excess fluoride consumption during the tooth forming years, age 8 and younger. Dental fluorosis in the United States appears mostly in the very mild or mild form - as barely visible lacy white markings or spots on the enamel. The severe form of dental fluorosis, with staining and pitting of the tooth surface, is rare in the United States.While I completely agree with the use of fluoride in a dental setting, I'm not too quick to advocate fluoride in the water. Topically applying fluoride to your teeth is one thing, but drinking it down... I don't feel comfortable with that. I have fluorosis of the enamel on my maxillary central incisors. I can remember my mother giving me fluoride tablets that I ate, having fluoride every six months at the dentist, and drinking it in the water since 1991 when the community fluoridation band wagon hit the City of Calgary, where I grew up. My children drink water like it's going out of style and guess what? My oldest has fluorosis on her maxillary teeth as well. Coincidence?
There are several reasons for the changes seen over time, including that Americans have access to more sources of fluoride than they did when water fluoridation was first introduced in the United States in the 1940s. Water is now one of several sources of fluoride. Other common sources include dental products such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, prescription fluoride supplements, and fluoride applied by dental professionals. Water fluoridation and fluoride toothpaste are largely responsible for the significant decline in tooth decay in the U.S. over the past several decades.
HHS' proposed recommendation of 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water replaces the current recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams. This updated recommendation is based on recent EPA and HHS scientific assessments to balance the benefits of preventing tooth decay while limiting any unwanted health effects. These scientific assessments will also guide EPA in making a determination of whether to lower the maximum amount of fluoride allowed in drinking water, which is set to prevent adverse health effects.
The new EPA assessments of fluoride were undertaken in response to findings of the National Academies of Science (NAS). At EPA's request, in 2006 NAS reviewed new data on fluoride and issued a report recommending that EPA update its health and exposure assessments to take into account bone and dental effects and to consider all sources of fluoride. In addition to EPA's new assessments and the NAS report, HHS also considered current levels of tooth decay and dental fluorosis and fluid consumption across the United States."
The idea of water fluoridation being "One of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century" sounds wonderful, but is it really?