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Those precious bodily fluids

Fans of the great Stanley Kubrick satire, Dr Strangelove, will struggle to suppress a wry smile over this story:

Fluoride in drinking water – long controversial in the United States when it is deliberately added to strengthen teeth – can damage bones and teeth, and federal standards fail to guard against this, the National Academy of Sciences reported on Wednesday.

The vast majority of Americans – including those whose water supply has fluoride added — drink water that is well below the limit for fluoride levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Maybe all that stuff about flouride in the water being a crazy Commie plot may not have been so nuts after all. On the other hand…

16 comments to Those precious bodily fluids

  • James

    I’ve never quite understood the desire to contaminate the public water supply with fluoride.

    I’ve heard the argument from public health officials that it is for the benefit of young children whose teeth aren’t treated with the necessary care, but surely the only way to ensure they have healthy teeth is to i) brush them, which would involve using a brush and toothpaste anyway, or drinking a fairly large amount of tapwater (perhaps with or without cordial?). I very much doubt that those children who need fluoride come into frequent contact with tap water. I suspect they’re far more likely to be drinking Sunny D or Coca-Cola…

    Whilst they’re at it, they might as well throw some Prozac into the reservoir, just to make sure 😉

  • Curt

    Look, it’s very well understood that small amounts of fluoride create a stronger type of tooth enamel that more resistant against decay. Like many, many other substances, if you get into significantly larger quantities, detrimental, and even toxic effects occur.

    (If you call the poison control center because your kid has eaten a jar full of vitamin pills, the first thing they’ll ask you is whether they contained iron. If not, they tell you not to worry. If so, they tell you to go to a hospital for treatment. Iron is one of those substances needed for life and health, but in too large quantities, can harm you — by direct toxicity if concentrated enough, and by subtler effects in somewhat lesser quantities.)

    This looks simply to be a quibble about where the threshold lies for fluoride. Purposeful fluoridation started after public health studies discovered the commonality in regions in the US that had well-below-average levels of tooth decay. That commonality was naturally occurring fluoride in the drinking water. Closer examination at that time also correlated fluoride with lower rates of broken bones.

    I grew up in an area where the suburbs did not have fluoridated water, but the city did. The affluent suburban kids all had mouths full of fillings. When my mother started teaching special education in the inner city, she was stunned to see that none of the kids had any fillings or needed any — they had perfect teeth. These were seriously deprived kids — no one was watching out to see that they had a good diet, good dental hygiene, or any of that. But yet, their teeth were in much better shape than those of us who were supposedly better taken care of.

    I would hate to see fluoride become one of those substances, that because large amounts are shown to be bad, no amount can be tolerated. We have too much of that nonsense already.

  • veryretired

    POE, dude, POE.

  • gravid

    “Is it safe?”

    I have been told on good account that the people who work in the labs for the water service here would install filtration units capable of taking out any fluoride added to the water supply if it were to happen. Also, I have been told by some people in the dental profession that fluoride accumulates in the teeth and bones. If it is in the water supply then you have no way of gauging the amount ingested at all. I don’t use fluoride toothpaste and haven’t needed a filling in the last 5 years.

  • Snide

    This just shows the folly of collective mass medication as it forces one theory on everyone. The notion the state (or anyone else) should make this decision on behalf of everyone else is monstrous.

  • emy

    The most regularly heard joke in the USA, re ‘Limeys’, is that you can always tell an Englishman by his mouthful of bad teeth, and strangely enough, it does seem to mostly hold true.

    After many decades of mass fluoridisation, and, I might add – years of antipodean dentistry, as practised by the NHS, (the ‘fill or pull’, or rural variety, ), the nation’s dental health would seem to be as bad as ever…

  • Dale Amon

    I have certainly seen – and refused – the inordinate desire to pull.

    I have no problem with fluoridation, although I have heard cases where some communities water companies were doing a bungled job of it.

    A good point was made above btw… how many people still drink tap water? I use it for coffee, but many people (in the US) seem to be in to designer water bottles.

  • Paul Marks

    It has long been known that the varous chemicals that are put into the water supply (such as fluoride) promote cancer and other health problems.

    I suppose it could be a cunning plot to reduce the burden of pension costs in the future.

    Or it could just be that the powers-that-be do demented things at random.

    From a practical point of view in the North West of England a lot of people complain that the tap water makes their teeth go yellow (as mine already are yellow this is not a great threat to me).

    However, I was a little taken aback to find that the famous “soft water” of the North West tasted so vile – “oh it is the chemicals” I was informed.

    Still in June it is back to the hard water of the East Midlands – East Anglia (sure it is full of nitrates from the farmers – but one can not taste those).

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    The point is that a company (a water utility in this case) provides a service it thinks you require. Don’t want the service, don’t drink the water, there are alternatives. Libertarianism begins at home!

    As a side note, after 27 years of living in Australia, where urban water supplies are generally fluoridised, produced no fillings. After just over 4 years living in the UK, I’m going into the dentist for my first two fillings ever next week. No change to my dental hygiene practices, although admittedly the cavities are in my wisdom teeth, apparently more likely to be subject to tooth decay due to their awkward position and sensitivity when they are coming through (ie. you’re less likely to brush them well).

    I know that in Australia it is recommended that young children not use fluoride toothpaste because they will typically get a fair dose of it through water and fluoride is linked to developmental problems. Even if you think the state is being big brother on this issue, it by no means reduces your responsibility for your own health.

  • Sigivald

    Paul: It’s “long been known” that they cause cancer? In the relevant amounts? (Granted that nigh anything can cause cancer in sufficient amounts… but the dose makes the poison, and likewise the carcinogen.)

    Care to share the data on that?

  • Nick M

    Flouride in the water is the reason I’ve got better teeth than my parents. In short, it doesn’t influence my purity of essence. Paul Marks, the water in the North West tastes fine (I live in Manchester, so I should know). How could water taste bad that’s already been filtered through the kidneys of so many Scousers and Mancs? Having said that, since I moved here I’ve developed this inexplicable desperate need for Temazepam.

  • New Studies: Fluoride Not Preventing Tooth Decay

    New York – March 9 — Fluoride is not stopping cavities and is causing discolored teeth, is reported in several new studies to be presented at the American Association for Dental Research’s annual meeting from March 8 – 11, 2006, in Orlando, Florida, reports the New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation (NYSCOF).

    For example:

    — Researchers following children from birth, starting in 1991- 1995 (Iowa Fluoride Study), found almost double the dental fluorosis in early erupting permanent teeth of 9 year-olds drinking optimally fluoridated water compared to children drinking sub-optimally fluoridated water (41% vs. 21%); but no less tooth decay.(1)

    — Researchers found no significant relationship between fluoride exposure and cavities in permanent teeth of 6 to 9-year-olds in Campeche, Mexico(2). Previously, it was reported that 56% of this group has dental fluorosis.(3)

    — A U.S. national study reports cavity prevalence increased by 15% in 2 to 5-year-olds, in surveys taken between 1988-1994 and 1999-2002,(4) despite 60 years of water fluoridation reaching 2/3 of Americans on public water supplies and virtually 100% via the food supply. However, the Centers for Disease Control report that 1/3 to 1/2 of U.S. schoolchildren display dental fluorosis.(4a)

    — Another U.S. study shows that breastfed children have less cavities than non-breastfed.(5) even though breast milk has 100 times less fluoride than dentists claim is optimal to reduce cavities. Breastfeeding is also protective against fluorosis.(5a)

    — Although New York City fluoridated in 1965, NYC children of Chinese descent suffer a much higher prevalence and severity of tooth decay than the national average (63% vs 38%). (6)

    — About half of 7 to14-year-old children from fluoridated Rochester, NY, have cavities. Latino children had significantly higher caries experience than African-American and Caucasian children, thus indicating that disparities exist among different ethnic groups even when the water is fluoridated.(7)

    — In fluoridated Detroit, 91% of African American low-income children, 5 years and younger, have tooth decay.(8)

    “Today, fluoridation puts American children at risk of dental fluorosis without any benefit of less tooth decay,” says Paul Beeber, NYSCOF President and General Counsel. “And growing evidence links fluoride to hypersensitivities, bone damage, thyroid problems and more,” says Beeber.

    These studies add to a growing body of evidence pointing to fluoride’s ineffectiveness and lack of safety: See: http://www.fluoridealert.org/health/teeth/caries/fluoridation.html#top

    Contact: Paul Beeber, nyscof@aol.com



    SOURCE: NYS Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc

    PO Box 263

    Old Bethpage, NY 11804


    (1) AADR 35th Annual Meeting in Orlando:
    Abstract # 0153 – Dental caries and fluorosis in relation to water fluoride levels, I Hong, SM Levy, J Warren, B Broffitt http://snipurl.com/n8hg

    (2) AADR 35th Annual Meeting in Orlando:

    Abstract # 1995 – Cross-Sectional analysis of dental caries in children with mixed dentition, AA Vallejos-Sanchez, CE Mendina-Solis, JF Casanova-Rosado, G Maupome, AJ Casanova-Rosado, M Minaya-Sanchez http://snipurl.com/n8i9

    (3) Prevalence of dental fluorosis and additional sources of exposure to fluoride as risk factors to dental fluorosis in schoolchildren of Campeche, Mexico, PR Beltran-Valladares, H Cocom-Tun, JF Casanova-Rosado, AA Vallejos-Sanchez, CE Medina-Solis, G Maupome, Rev Invest Clin. 2005 Uly-Aug;57(4):532-9


    (4) AADR 35th Annual Meeting in Orlando:

    Abstract # 0458 – Trends in Dental Caries of Primary Teeth, United States, 1988-2002, F Jaramillo, E Beltran, L Barker, S Griffin, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://snipurl.com/n8jq

    (4a) Beltrán-Aguilar et al. Surveillance for Dental Caries, Dental Sealants, Tooth Retention, Edentulism and Enamel Fluorosis – United States, 1988-1994 and 1999-2002. MMWR. CDC August 26, 2005


    (5) AADR 35th Annual Meeting in Orlando:

    Abstract # 0881 – No association between breastfeeding and early childhood caries: NHANES 1999-2002, H Iida, P Auinger, M Weitzman, RJ Billings http://snipurl.com/n8jw

    (5a) Breastfeeding is Protective Against Dental Fluorosis in a Nonfluoridated Rural Area of Ontario, Canada, D Brothwell, H Limeback, Journal of Human Lactation, Vol. 19, No. 4, 386-390 (2003) http://jhl.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/19/4/386

    (6) AADR 35th Annual Meeting in Orlando:

    Abstract # 0l50 – Caries Experience among Chinese-American Children and Adolescents in Lower Manhattan, CH Chinn http://snipurl.com/n8k9

    (7) AADR 35th Annual Meeting in Orlando:

    Abstract # 0478 – Dental Caries in Latino Elementary School Children, S Gajendra http://snipurl.com/n8lz

    (8) AADR 35th Annual Meeting in Orlando:

    Abstract # 1992 – Severity of Dental Caries Among African American Children in Detroit, AI Ismail, M Tellez http://snipurl.com/n8m2

    Fluoridation News Releases

  • J

    I went to a boarding school that had its own well. The water had naturally very high flouride levels – far higher than mains water. Long serving members of staff had yellow teeth that were very hard, and eventually rather brittle.

    For what it’s worth I’ve never had a single filling in my life, but that’s probably more to do with hating soft drinks than flouride.

    As others have said, it’ not compulsory to use mains water. If you don’t like what comes out of the pipe, pay for a well or collect rainwater or something.

  • The bottled water that so many people pay so much for these days is, in many cases, simply tap water. I looked at the website for the Miami-area water authority and compared its treatment of water with the treatments listed on a bottle of water from that area. They were identical, except of course one cost several hundred times the cost of the other.

  • Paul Marks

    Sigivald – you are right, I have just ASSUMED the government’s foes are correct (I have not checked the evidence).

    The reason is as follows: I am 40 years old and all my life I have heard people accusing governments of various nasty things, these normally (but not always) turn out to be true charges.

    So I have come in to the habit of mind of assuming a government guilty till it proves its innocence beyond all reasonable doubt.

    Nick M.

    You have a good sense of humour.

    I do not know much about this part of the world, but I aim to see a bit of the North West before I head back to Kettering.

    Manchester is not high on my list (I have been there a few times and it just seems to be a version of London).

    To a Northamptonshire man anywhere too big to walk from side to the other in an afternoon is, well, too big (which is why I have a problem with Bolton, nice though it is in parts, and is also why I have a big problem with what has been done to the towns of my own county).

    If you know any where worth visiting let me know.


  • Julian Taylor

    My folks used to shun the notion of state-managed water utilities and preferred their own bore-hole instead. As a result, living in West Sussex, we got the advantage of having a very high calcium content in the water and in the soil (all those white chalk cliffs and the Downs), thus ensuring strong teeth etc while managing to avoid fluoridation from anywhere except toothpaste.