Meadville Tribune

Opinion

January 16, 2014

When it comes to fluoride, one size does not fit all

The letter to the editor in The Meadville Tribune written by Dr. Christopher G. Knapp on Dec. 7, 2013, implies that the Meadville Area Water Authority (MAWA) is considering introducing fluoride into the drinking water system. If this is the case then both the members of MAWA and the public affected by the introduction of fluoride should be aware of the some facts about fluoride. First we’ll concentrate on the business end and then on the health issues.

Is MAWA really considering the introduction of fluoride without asking its customers if they want it? Would it not be wise to have the approval of the customers? The customers affected by the introduction of fluoride consists not only of the residents of the City of Meadville but also some residents of Vernon, West Mead and Woodcock townships and county residents who work in these municipalities and patronize local restaurants.

Fluoride costs money, and from my own experience with purchasing chlorine, I won’t doubt that its price will be fixed by the producers. This was the problem that I encountered when as the assistant engineer of the City of Meadville I prepared bids to purchase chlorine. There would not be any competition in pricing. Adding fluoride would be an additional cost that the consumers will have to absorb whether they like it or not.

If fluoride is introduced there would be many individuals who will switch to bottled water for drinking because they will refuse to have a contaminant forced, literally, down their throat. The other factor to consider is that there will be millions of gallons of fluoridated water going to waste and will never reach the intended targets — customers’ teeth.

Water is used for line flushing, toilet flushing, fire suppression, car washing, bathing, etc. In 2013 the Minister of Health of Israel, Yael German, signed a new regulation eliminating fluoridation. Her reason: only 2 percent of water is used for drinking by the population, with the rest used for dishwashing, bathing, industry and other uses. Does it really make business sense to introduce fluoride into the drinking water on the premise that there might be health benefits for some?

Another factor to keep in mind before making a business decision is that according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), there is enough data that indicates that fluoride exposure levels among the population have increased in the last 40 to 50 years from several other sources such as dental products (toothpaste and mouth rinses), prescription fluoride supplements, fluoride applied by dental professionals and dietary sources such as food and beverages made with fluoridated water.

What are the health benefits? Fluoride is not a supplement such as vitamins or minerals but it is a contaminant regulated as such.

Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) consider fluoride a contaminant. The definition of “contaminant” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: pollutant, toxin, poison, chemical or a waste product. Both agencies disagreed on the maximum level of this pollutant that should be allowed in the water. The HHS believes that the max should be 0.7mg/L, the EPA 4.0 mg/L and our own DEP set the standard at 2.0 mg/L. Should the public feel assured that their health is actually safeguarded when governmental agencies cannot agree on a safe dosage of fluoride in the drinking water?

It also appears that the U.S. is one of the few nations in the world that still believes that fluoride is the magic answer for healthy teeth, whereas most of the European nations have eliminated fluoride in public water systems.

Dr. Arvid Carlsson, the 2000 Nobel Laureate in medicine and physiology and one of the scientists who helped keep fluoridation out of Sweden, considers fluoride a drug and as such he believes it should only be made available through a doctor when it is truly needed. Carlsson’s conclusions go hand-in-hand with those of Dr. Weston Price, who was a dentist from Cleveland. At the end of his practice, Price embarked on a research journey around the world to find out “what was a healthy diet” and what caused tooth decay. His findings laid the groundwork for proper nutrition and cavity-free teeth. His book, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration,” concluded that healthy nutrition is the answer for healthy teeth. His words on fluoride: “Fluorine treatment, like dental extractions, cannot be a panacea for dental caries.”

German also stated, “It must be known to you that fluoridation can cause harm to the health of the chronically ill and pregnant women.” The EPA also determined that exposure to excessive consumption of fluoride over a lifetime may lead to increased likelihood of bone fractures in adults and may result in effects on bone, leading to pain and tenderness. Excessive fluoride could also cause dental fluorosis (mottling of tooth enamel).

It appears to me that the U.S is going through what I call the Obamacare syndrome, whereas someone comes up with a grandiose idea of how to improve everyone’s health by forcing all of us to accept what they think is good. Water companies spend a considerable amount of money to remove pollutants from the drinking water. Why add one? Why not let the dentists decide what is good for each of their patients instead of “one size fits all?”

Luigi DeFrancesco is a Richmond Township resident and former assistant engineer for the City of Meadville.

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