Water Fluoridation Guidelines Revised

Fluoride has been used in public water sources for decades in an attempt to improve the oral health of Americans, but in recent years has been surrounded by controversy. Arguments that the added mineral contributes to the development of autism, or that ingestion of too much fluoride can lower the IQ of children, have continually been debunked, however the Department of Health and Human Services recently recommended that the levels of fluoride added to the drinking water be decreased. According to a recent article from The Washington Post, in it’s first update of the water fluoridation guidelines in 50 years, the government is now advising the water contain .7 milligrams of fluoride per liter, as opposed to the previous range of .7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter, which was the level set in 1962.

The Department of Health and Human Services is claiming that the new recommendation is not in response to opposition, rather it was necessary to reflect the fact that there are several other sources of fluoride available to Americans. Fluoride is found in most toothpastes, mouth rinses, and dental treatments, which was not the case ih 1945 when the mineral was added to drinking water for the first time. At that time, some communities fought water fluoridation, considering it an overstep of governmental boundaries, or a possible “communist plot.” But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stands behind the decision, claiming it is one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

A good portion of the anti-fluoride movement consists of scientists and environmentalists who think that we are ingesting too much, and that negative health effects may result. However, a thorough review of the science of fluoridation began in 2006 and has yet to show any negative health effects from small amounts in the water supply, according to Deputy Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak. The only point that the federal Public Health Service found is that the added fluoride can cause small white markings or spots on some people’s teeth. The benefits of fluoridation far outweigh the consequences of this small cosmetic issue.  “Fluoride saves people’s teeth,” Lushniak said. He further stated that since its introduction, water fluoridation has reduced the prevalence of tooth decay in teens from over 90% to around 60%.

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