Albuquerque, New Mexico will continue to maintain a fluoride-free water supply after the local water authority voted to remove funding for water fluoridation for the fiscal year 2017.
On Wednesday May 18, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority voted to remove proposed funding for water fluoridation from the utility’s 2017 budget. The Water Utility Authority had originally recommended spending $250,000 to add extra fluoride into the water supply to help the county reach federally recommended levels of fluoride. Bernalillo County’s supply is at 0.3 parts per million while the federal government recommends .7 parts per million.
Only weeks ago Hart Stebbins, a Bernalillo County commissioner, introduced a measure that would have required the water authority to add fluoride to the water supply to a level of 0.7 parts per million. However, on May 18, the board opted not to vote on the measure, effectively ending the bid for water fluoridation.
“Adding supplemental fluoride to the drinking supply is one way to help insure that community oral health is improved,” said David Morris, with the water authority, said days before the board ultimately decided not to take up the resolution.
Albuquerque became the largest city not to add fluoride to the water supply in 2011 when the water authority said they would wait until federal guidelines were updated in 2015. The decision ended a 39-year practice of water fluoridation for the Bernalillo County.
Although water fluoridation will not return to the county, the Albuquerque Journal reports that the board did approve a measure which “asks the New Mexico Congressional delegation to request expedited action on the final recommendations.” Supporters of water fluoridation were dismayed by the non vote and called for the board to vote on the issue once new guidelines are issued.
“The disappointing thing is that they have the science in front of them,” said Dr. Ron Romero, an Albuquerque dentist. “It’s not totally over yet. It allows more time for the education of policy makers.”
So what does the science say about water fluoridation and what the heck IS fluoride?
The substances added to municipal water supplies known by the name fluoride are actually a combination of unpurified by-products of phosphate mining, namely hydrofluorosilicic acid, sodium fluorosilicate, and sodium fluoride. In the United States, thousands of tons of fluorosilicic acid is recovered from phosphoric acid plants and then used for water fluoridation. During this process the fluoride ion is created.
This process of taking waste from the phosphate industry and putting it into drinking water has long been criticized for its effects on human health, and that of the environment. It is well known that water fluoridation has led to dental fluorosis for millions of children. This discoloring of the teeth was called “cosmetically objectionable” by the Centers for Disease Control. Beyond the cosmetic effect, there have been a number of studies indicating health issues ranging from arthritis, brain problems, reduced thyroid or overactive thyroid, kidney problems and bone cancers.
While proponents of water fluoridation have long pointed to an apparent drop in tooth decay in fluoridated nations as proof of its validity, those claims have been proven wrong by the World Health Organization. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated the fluoride in the water is directly related to better teeth quality; however, the WHO released its own study showing that tooth decay rates have dropped in all Western nations, whether fluoridated or not.
In 2015, Truth In Media reported that the Cochrane Collaboration, a global independent network of researchers, professionals, and patients, reviewed the most comprehensive, well-designed and reliable papers on fluoride, before analyzing and publishing their conclusion.
According to Newsweek:
The review identified only three studies since 1975—of sufficient quality to be included—that addressed the effectiveness of fluoridation in the population at large. These papers determined that fluoridation does not reduce cavities to a statistically significant degree, says study co-author Anne-Marie Glenny, a health science researcher at Manchester University in the United Kingdom.
The scientists also found “insufficient evidence” that fluoridation reduces tooth decay in adults (children excluded). “From the review, we’re unable to determine whether water fluoridation has an impact on caries levels in adults,” Glenny says.
Trevor Sheldon, dean of the Hull York Medical School in the United Kingdom, conducted a review of water fluoridation in 2000. Sheldon concluded that the process is not effective. “I had assumed because of everything I’d heard that water fluoridation reduces cavities but I was completely amazed by the lack of evidence,” he told Newsweek. “My prior view was completely reversed.”
Sheldon points out that some studies have actually shown that when water fluoridation was ceased, cavities went down a small percentage among schoolchildren. This includes a 2001 study of two British Columbia communities that was included in the Cochrane review.
The Cochrane team also found that most studies confirming the effectiveness of fluoridation were completed prior to the widespread use of dental products such as mouth rinses and toothpastes. The study did find evidence that fluoridation was linked to a 26 percent decrease in cavities. However, this study was also done before the growth of modern dentistry. The researchers write, “We have limited confidence in the size of this effect due to the high risk of bias within the studies and the lack of contemporary evidence.”
In early June 2015, the Health Research Board (HRB) also released an in-depth review of the effects of water fluoridation. The review was conducted at the behest of the U.S. Department of Health. After examining all internationally peer-reviewed papers on the topic of fluoride and health effects from 2006 to 2014, the HRB “found no definitive evidence that community water fluoridation is associated with positive or negative systemic health effects.”
In February 2015, Anti Media reported on a study published in the BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health which confirmed fluoride’s negative effect on the thyroid gland and a possible connection to depression, weight gain, and other negative health effects.
Researchers with the University of Kent in England examined thyroid activity for those in areas with fluoridated water and those without. The team examined 95 percent of the English population in 2012 and 2013 and found high rates of underactive thyroid were 30% more likely in areas with high fluoride concentration. An underactive thyroid can lead to depression, weight gain, fatigue and aching muscles.
While the study confirms previous studies that showed fluoride interferes with the production of iodine for the thyroid, some experts believe the study is not conclusive. Prof David Coggon, Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Southampton, believed the observations could have been caused by some other variable. “It is quite possible that the observed association is a consequence of other ways in which the areas with higher fluoride differ from the rest of the country,” he told the Telegraph. “There are substantially more rigorous epidemiological methods by which the research team could have tested their idea.”
Beyond the health effects themselves, there seems to be a growing conflict of interest between American health agencies and the publicly available data on dangers associated with fluoride. In 2014 Truth In Media reported:
Over 2000 pages of emails released under a Freedom of Information Act request have uncovered an apparent conflict of interest between the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Dental Association (ADA) regarding water fluoridation. The emails also contain an admission by the CDC that those with kidney issues will likely be adversely affected by the substance.
From September 5th to the 8th the Fluoride Action Network held the 5th Citizens Conference on Fluoride in Washington D.C. At the conference, Dan Stockin, MPH, released the emails and declared that “These documents make it abundantly clear….. the ADA and CDC Oral Health Division are the tweedledum and tweedledee of fluoridation promotion. They work hand in hand (often at taxpayers’ expense) to spin the message in favor of fluoridation.”
The 2500 pages contained emails from 2011 between employees at the Oral Health Division of the CDC (the only division at the CDC that deals with fluoridation) and the ADA, as well as communications from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The Nidel Lawfirm helped in the efforts to get the emails released. A statement from Nidel states that, “These documents raise questions about the objectivity of individuals within these agencies and indicate a need to get to the true motivations behind the lack of objectivity in these organizations.”
The reasons for opposing water fluoridation include: fear of a variety of health concerns; the belief that it is force medicating the population without their approval; financial waste; and environmental concerns related to phosphate mines where the chemical is found.
What are your thoughts? Should the American people have a choice whether or not they pay for water fluoridation? Do you believe the process is safe and should be continued?
Derrick is available for interviews.
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