The Journalist’s Resource project, based at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, examines news topics through a research lens. It ‘surfaces’ scholarly materials that may be relevant to media practitioners, bloggers, educators, students and general readers. The following news items were published in a review on their website earlier this year.
Concern about fluoride, a neurotoxin
A 2014 review paper in The Lancet Neurology identified a number of potential development neurotoxins in children. One of these — fluoride — has continued to fuel a discussion since the article’s publication, as the water supplies of approximately 74 percent of the U.S. population have fluoridation. While the debate hasn’t yet risen to the same level as those over vaccines or global warming, some U.S. municipalities are reassessing the amount of fluoride in their water sources — or whether to fluoridate at all.
Anti-fluoride critics have extended their influence
The article comments that, despite evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of fluoridation, anti-fluoride critics have extended their influence and challenged public health experts. Despite the evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of fluoridation, anti-fluoride critics have extended their influence and challenged public health experts.
Some communities are rejecting fluoridation
- Voters (above) in Portland, Oregon did so in 2013, the fourth time in almost 60 years — overruling the city’s commissioners, who had agreed to fluoridate the city’s water supply.
- USA Today reported that in July, the commissioners of Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, voted to stop adding fluoride. The vote was 6-1, with Commissioner Carlos Wilson casting the only vote in favour of fluoride, this despite objections from local dentists, who had argued that fluoride is a proven method for fighting tooth decay. Water system general manager David Collett said he will stop adding fluoride to the water supply immediately.
- On the morning of August 4th, the city council of Port Angeles, Washington, stopped fluoridation of the municipal water supply following four ethics complaints against council members and repeated, intense City Council public comment sessions. A vote to decide whether to resume the practice will be held in November 2017.
A near thing – next time perhaps
In January 2016, city officials in Durango, Colorado debated whether to stop adding fluoride to city drinking water. The local effort to eliminate fluoride from drinking water has been led by Jim Forleo, a chiropractor who said too much fluoride can have negative effects such as joint pain. “They are giving us a drug without our consent,” he said. Fluoride opponents, reason that while a certain amount of fluoride may be safe, the weight and medical condition of the person would help to determine the appropriate dose. In April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended lowering the dosage of fluoride because so many people are exposed to it in toothpaste and mouthwash.
Dr John Rothchild, a dentist, came to hear the council’s discussion in June. He filters out the fluoride from his home water and his clinic because of the potential side effects of fluoride, especially on the thyroid.
When it comes to tooth decay, sugar is far more important, he said: “We have to control the sugar”.
The question deadlocked the city’s Utilities Commission, so that advisory board did not have a united position to present, but the commission’s chairman, John Ballew, and San Juan Basin Health. Department Executive Director Liane Jollon both spoke in favour of fluoride and the Durango City Council decided that fluoride will stay in the Durango’s drinking water.
Early in 2016, residents of Healdsburg, California opposing fluoridation mounted a campaign
It is hoped that Healdsburg residents can be convinced to vote to stop adding the substance to the city’s water supply. They have been gathering voters’ signatures to place the issue on the November ballot, hoping the outcome will be different from last time in 2014, when 64% said “yes” to keeping fluoride in the water and 34% said “no.” They are seeking a moratorium on the additive until the city and fluoride suppliers provide detailed chemical reports and a written statement verifying its safety for ingestion.
In Collier County, Florida a debate over fluoridation has started
Camden Smith, the commissioner’s assistant, is to petition commissioners to stop fluoridation of the county’s drinking water. She said she will raise issues about the health and safety of using cavity-preventing fluoride in drinking water and ask commissioners to “stop putting a medical treatment into a public utility.”
A reader adds news from Patton Borough, Pennsylvania – another town which has continued the growing trend of ending fluoridation due to the corrosion and metal leaching caused by the chemical additive. According to Borough water engineer David Cunningham, of Keller Engineers, “because Patton has older water lines, the added fluorosilicic acid seemed to be loosening sediment and causing corrosion. ‘The fear is that you’re going to raise lead and copper levels,’ he said. The notice added that the fluoride also seemed to be increasing the water’s iron content.”
And from Kennebunk, Maine – Voters in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells, Ogunquit, Arundel, and portions of Biddeford and York, Maine will have the opportunity to end fluoridation on election day in November. The water district has come out in opposition to adding fluoride additives, and a campaign has been organized to win the ballot vote.
As Florida’s Camden Smith says, “I’m not saying fluoride isn’t beneficial to children but 89% of our population is over the age of 10 and has no medical need for fluoride. When even the cheapest toothpaste on the planet has fluoride in it, we are not servicing the public good. While I agree it is a moderate amount of fluoride in our drinking water, the problem is we’re bathing in it, drinking it and swimming in it. I respect anyone’s choice to put medical treatment in their water and I ask to be given the same choice. Nobody should be forced to ingest fluoride”.