Risks of Fluoride?

By ZACK OWENSBYThe Wilson Post

During the past two weeks, concerns have peaked over the City of Lebanon’s decision to stop adding fluoride to its city water supply.

Fluoride has confirmed benefits, mostly related to dental health, when consumed in small amounts, first touted in the 1940s and proven again by numerous studies since, according to the American Dental Association.

Studies provided by the ADA also show dental decay significantly increased when water fluoridation stopped in a community, even where fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwashes were widely used.

But for all the praises by doctors and dentists, there are some who feel the potential risks outweigh the benefits.

Mt. Juliet resident and member of the Wilson County Health Council, Dolores Mackey, is concerned mostly about the amount of the toxin residents of fluoridated water districts are consuming.

Mackey said she wonders if doctors and dentists who praise fluoridation “actually realize that we’re getting it from elsewhere.”

Mackey said the concerns for her family are great enough to warrant buying bottled water instead of tap water.

“We just want to drink pure water,” she said. “And even that is a challenge, because there is no requirement to label fluoride in bottled water.”

Even nursery water which is marketed as being safe for babies contains fluoride, she added. Boiling water only condenses the fluoride as the water turns to steam, making it more concentrated.

But the same material that helps in small doses can make people sick and even kill in larger doses.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that too much exposure to fluoride can cause bone disease, as well as the mottling of tooth enamel in permanent teeth of children, one of the very things fluoride is added to prevent.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, between 1-10 grams of fluoride can be fatal, depending on the weight of the individual. Fluoride is measured in water supplies in Maximum Contaminant Levels, or MCLs, which is measured in parts per million, or ppm.

The FDA limits the amounts in local water supplies to 4 ppm, with 2 ppm the secondary standard set a few years ago. The FDA recommends local water districts keep as close to 1.0 ppm as possible. 

One of the major complaints with fluoridating the water supply is the fact that consumption varies across the population, making it impossible to monitor how much is being ingested by an individual, said J.C. York, superintendent of Lebanon Waterworks.

Mackey said she has expressed her concern several times to the West Wilson Utility District and its members, but her concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

“Basically, they finally said, ‘Thank you, but we’re going to go with the state recommendation,’” she added. “But I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep fighting.”

Fluoride a concern to livestock

Another concern with water fluoridation relates to its effect on livestock. Because of the increased amounts of water consumed, the substance affects cattle and horses in a more serious manner, according to Dr. Travis Whitlow of Kinslow Veterinary Clinic.

Interestingly, cattle are more naturally susceptible to problems from fluoride than horses or sheep, Whitlock added.

“Fluoride can have bad effects on cattle especially,” Whitlock said. “The fluoride gets absorbed into their bones and causes deterioration.”

The bone deterioration causes more breaks, among other things, resulting in lameness and weight loss.

But usually, the amounts of fluoride in drinking water are not dangerous, he said. Rare instances of fluoride poisoning most likely comes from an outside industrial source.

“But if I did own cattle, I’d try to find another water source just to be safe,” Whitlock said.

Other sources of fluoride

According to the City of Lebanon’s Water Consumer Confidence Report, Lebanon’s water already contains 0.28 ppm on average of fluoride that occurs naturally from the Cumberland River.

But tap water is not the only place to get the mineral. Here are a few other sources to top off the FDA daily recommended amount of fluoride:

Toothpaste: 0.1% = 500 ppm (per brushing)Mouthwash: 0.05% = 225 ppmJuices: 0.15-6.8 ppm  Grape- Minute Maid: 1.25 ppm Grape- Welch’s: 1.28 ppm 100% Apple- Minute Maid: 1.30 ppm Pineapple- Minute Maid: 1.35 ppm White Grape- Welch’s: 1.95 ppm Grape- Purity Supreme: 2.0 ppm Tropical Blend- Beechnut: 2.6 ppm 100% Grape- Welch’s: 2.6 ppm White Grape- Minute Maid: 3.0 ppm White Grape- Gerber: 6.8 ppmSodas: 0.74 ppm (avg)Tea (brewed in non-fluoridated water): 0.1-4.2 ppmCanned fish: 4.5 ppm Cereals: 3.8-6.3 ppm Beer: 0.7-1.0 ppm Wine: 0.23-2.8 ppm

Source: http://www.fluoridealert.org/f-sources.htm (compiled from FDA and scholarly-reviewed experiments).

Staff Writer Zack Owensby may be contacted at zowensby@wilsonpost.com.