Liying ZhouProfessor SterrantinoENGL 2010-028 December 2017Research Paper Final DraftWhat’sBehind Our Drinking Water? Fluorideis more common in our life than we think.
It is not just a waste byproduct fromthe aluminum industry. Fluoride is a natural mineral widely found in water,oil, or air. Though, it is not an essential growth development of human.
Infact, fluoride also exists in drinking water and our toothpaste. Fluoride does provide benefit of protectingteeth in two ways: systemically and topically (ADA). Public water fluoridationhas existed for more than 70 years in about 24 countries around the world (One In A Million: The Facts About WaterFluoridation). Despite of some controversies and conspiracy theoriesrelated to water fluoridation, its safety and benefits have been proven bystudies. Water fluoridation provides benefits such as better dental health, aslong as with the proper amount of fluoride. Thereare two types of water fluoridation: natural water fluoridation and artificialwater fluoridation. The history started with an American dentist named Dr.
Frederick McKay in 1901. McKay noted that the brown stain on teeth wasassociated with lower decay rates. After several case studies, he suggestedthat the natural fluoridated water supply might be responsible for the cause ofthe stain. Later on, H.V. Churchill, who was a chemist from ALCOA (the AluminiumCompany of America), according to his study, fluoride was the common factor inseveral areas where the straining was endemic. The US Public Health servicedesignated Dr.
H.T. Dean to conduct the famous study “21-City Study” which showedthe reduced tooth decay with fluoridated water supply. Therefore, in 1945,Grand Rapids in Michigan became the first town in the word that addedartificially fluoride to public drinking water. Before the water wasfluoridated, the decay level in Grand Rapids was similar to its neighbor townMuskegon. Six years later, Grand Rapids’s decay level among 6-year-old childrenwas almost half of the neighbor town.
Some other cities in the U.S., Canada,New Zealand, U.K. and Ireland followed the step of Grand Rapids (Mullen). Currently,besides the 24 countries with artificial fluoride to their public drinkingwater; there are another 28 countries that have naturally fluoridated water (One In A Million: The Facts About WaterFluoridation).
In 2014, 74.4% ofAmericans had access to fluoridated water, and CDC estimated this number wouldcontinue to grow. By 2020, 79.
6% of the population would receive fluoridatedwater that has the optimum level of fluoride of preventing tooth decay. Ever since community water fluoridation wasapplied in the United States in 1945, CDC asserted it as one of the greatestpublic health achievements of the 20th century (CDC). Except forUnited Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, the majority of European countries donot add artificial fluoride to their drinking water. This is because thenatural fluoride levels in these countries were already above the recommendedlevel (One In A Million: The Facts AboutWater Fluoridation). Some antifluoride organizations always use this as oneof the reasons of oppose fluoridation that most European countries refuse tofluoridate their water. And this is the fact that those organizations would tryto hide from their claims. However,some people are not comfortable with of idea of adding artificial fluoride towater; meanwhile, there are also some water fluoridation related conspiracytheories out there in terms of political, moral, ethics, safety and economicreasons.
During 1940s-1960s when the history was called “Red Scare’ in theUnited States, there were some right political activities who asserted thatcommunity water fluoridation was a communist plot to harm American publichealth. In the political film Dr.Strangelove released in 1964, fluoridation was presented as the conspiracy:”Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived anddangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?”( Haynes). Besides, Dr.Charles Bett who is a famous anti-fluoridationist in history, he claimed thatfluoridation was a better weapon than the atom bomb because Americans dumpedthemselves into the water just as communist desired (Johnston). So what was thefoundation of this communist plot conspiracy theory? The history dated back toWorld War II from Nazis Germany and Russian’s famous concentration camps.
TheInternet history resources claimed that in the ghettos where the Jews stayedand other prison camps, sodium fluoride was added into drinking water. TheNazis didn’t mean to strengthen the teeth of course, on the contrary, Nazis wasattempting to make the people in the areas become docile and stupid. Also,Russia used the same method to reduce its prisoners’ power of resistance. Mr.Harley Rivers Dickinson, who was a Liberal Party Member of the VictorianParliament in Australia, made a statement: “At the end World War II, the U.S.government sent a research worker Charles Elliot Perkins to Germany.
Mr.Perkins was told by the German General Staff that the repeated doses ofinfinitesimal amounts of fluoride will in time reduce an individual’s power toresist domination by slowly poisoning and narcotizing a certain area of thebrain, and will thus make him submissive to the will of those who wish togovern him.” (PoisonPaste). It is well-known that during the war time, Nazisspent a lot of time and focused on chemistry and pathology research andexperiments to control Jews. Nazis did not add fluoride to water because theycared about their enemies’ teeth health. Besides, let’s look at the backgroundof Mr. Harley Rivers Dickinson who claimed the Nazis fluoridation scheme.
Thereis no much information about Dickinson. All we know is that he was anAustralian politician and was known for his idiosyncratic approach to life.People can claim whatever they believe is true; being a politician doesn’t makea person’s words more reliable. Dickinson’s brief biography can befound on The Geelong College website. Dickinson was working as an Administratorfor Papua-New Guinea Department; later he returned to Australia and took theposition of the executive Officer and assistant secretary of the VictorianChamber of Manufacture. He also supported community organizations and publisheda collection of his paintings (The Geelong College).
The biographydoesn’t mention anything about Dickinson’s claim on Nazis fluoridation. Wedon’t know if he ever did say such thing. Even if he did, his background didn’tseem to be involved with any history studies on Nazis activities. If it made senses that Nazis and Russia usedfluoridated water as a mass mind-control scheme on their enemies, how can it beexplained that nowadays including U.
S., Australia, Canada, Ireland and the UK,the governments use public water fluoridation to control their own citizens?These are the most powerful countries in the world. Instead of focusing onbecoming stronger, they are trying to make their people stupid and docile? Thisdoesn’t make senses at all. Therefore, some conspiracy theorists give anotherreason why the governments would fluoridate drinking water. Before the SecondWorld War, industrial fluoride pollution was increased very quickly because theuse of aluminum in aircraft manufacturing.
Manufactures could no longer dumpthe fluoride waste into river or landfills as the crops and livestock weregetting poisoned by it. An ALCOA sponsored biochemist found that fluoridatedwater could reduce cavities, thus, the US government decided to fluoridatewater in 1939. In another words, the US government created a way for theindustries to dispose the fluoride waste. ALCOA became the company thatbenefited the most from fluoridated water. In this theory, people are reallysensitive about the background of Gerald Cox who wassponsored by ALCOA and discovered that fluoride helps prevent cavities. Peoplehighly doubt the motivation behind the study done by the company and the resulthe came up with. Besides ALCOA, there were other companies involved with thefluoride research studies, such as American Petroleum Institute, AluminumCompany of Canada, Kaiser Aluminum, US Steel, Reynolds Steel and Dupont (Wark).
An industrial waste is the material that is an additional output of a givenprocess and has no useful purpose. Fluoride is certainly not the case, becausefluoridated water provides the benefit of dental health. The website ilikemyteeth.orguses an interesting analogy to illustrate this. Fluoride is just like pumpkinseeds and pumpkin pie that are byproducts of a pumpkin. The fluoride added tothe water is a byproduct of phosphate rock processed for other purposes (“WhereDoes Fluoride Come From?”).
In the article “The Conspiracy TheoryDetector” by Michael Shermer, he discusses some signs that canhelp people to detect if a conspiracy theory is likely to be true or not. Theconspiracy theorists indiscriminately doubt about any government agencies andactivities, and they refuse to see other explanations that they will seek onlythe evidences that support their views. Also, when a conspiracy theory isinvolved with a large number of people, the less likely it would be true (Shermer).
Despite the theory that Nazis used fluoridated water to destroy willpower inthe concentration camps, there is another conspiracy theory about waterfluoridation. Some people claim that public water fluoridation is a tool forthe U.S.
government uses to control the mind of its people. For this theory towork, people in the government agencies will have to keep the secret. And it isextremely difficult for such a huge number of people to keep their mouths shut.Therefore, this conspiracy theory is less likely to be realistic. One thing wecannot deny is that fluoride itself as a chemical element could possibly behazardous in some cases proven by the studies. The debate about the possiblelink between fluoridated water and cancer risk started from a study in 1990.The National Toxicology Program (NTP) study showed the evidence that theincreased numbers of osteosarcomas (bone tumor) in male rats given high levelfluoridated water in 2 years. In 2001, a PhD student Elise Bassin from HarvardUniversity published a study result in peer-reviewed journal.
She wrote: “…formales less than twenty years old, fluoride level in drinking water duringgrowth is associated with an increased risk of osteosarcoma” (“Fluoride Linkedto Bone Cancer. Again”). However, American Cancer Society asserted the evidenceprovided by NTP was equivocal that it did not prove the cancer-causingpotential in female rates or in male or female mice (“Water Fluoridation andCancer Risk”). Other studies by Committee to Coordinate Environmental Healthand Related Programs and National Research showed no association betweenfluoridated water and cancer. In 1991, Public Health Service reported thatoptimal fluoridation of drinking water does not pose a detectable cancer riskto humans, which was based on a review of more than 50 human epidemiologicpopulation studies over the past 40 years. In 2011, researcher Kim FM et al.found a new way to examine the relationship between the two which provided amore accurate measure of cumulative fluoride exposure than relying on thememory of study participants or municipal water treatment records. Theiranalysis showed no difference in bone fluoride level between people withosteosarcoma and people in control group (“Fluoridated Water”).
Extremely highlevel of fluoride is known to cause neurotoxicity in adults. A recent Harvardin funded by National Institutes of Health also suggested that childrenexposure to high fluoridated water have significantly lower IQ scores thanthose who live in low fluoride areas. The researchers from Harvard School ofPublic Health and China Medical University in Shenyang performed a systematicreview and meta-analysis on exposure of fluoride drinking water andneurodevelopmental delays in rural China.
And the study reported the averageloss in IQ weighted mean difference of 0.45. One of the researchers Grandjeansaid: “Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons thatcause chemical brain drain.” The findings of this study gave us a warning of highdose fluoride in drinking water, and we shouldn’t ignore the potential risk onthe developing brain (“Impact of fluoride on neurological development inchildren”). But we shouldn’t see this result as equal to “fluoride causes lowerIQ and brain damage”.
As the study pointed out clearly, the sample areas hadextremely high level of fluoride in drinking water which may exceed 1 mg/L, or50 Smol/L (Mercola), while the recommended level is 0.7 milligramsof fluoride per liter of drinking water. (CDC)An article onThe Telegraph website pointed out that water fluoridation may triggerdepression and weight gain as well. Professor Stephen Peckham and his teamsfrom the University of Kent compared the records from 7935 general practicesthat covered around 95% of the English population in 2012-2013.
They found thathigh underactive thyroid rates in the areas where the fluoride level excess of0.3 mg/l were 30% more likely. And underactive thyroid can lead to depression,weight gain, fatigue, and aching muscles. Yet, previous studies found thatfluoride could inhibit the production of iodine and is essential for a healthythyroid. Dr Sandra White from Public Heath English responded that the totalevidences accumulated over decades of research had shown us that the waterfluoridation is safe and effective. Other experts also warned that Peckham’sstudy existed population bias (Knapton).
The study was linked to only extremelyhigh concentration of fluoride, which is 10 to 100 times than the amount in ourfluoridated drinking water. Besides, another main reason that Peckham and hisstudy caused so many attentions from other experts is the background ofPeckham. BBC News described him as an “anti-fluoridation campaigner”, whichsuggested the study conclusion could not be objective enough as its researchersasserted (“Experts Criticize Thyroid Study”). What’s more,there are also some experts who throw the question that fluoride is linked tolower birth rates and disorders in the reproductive system. Freni SC publishedon Journal of Toxicology and EnvironmentHealth that in the counties that reported water system fluoride levels ofat least 3 ppm, most regions showed among women range 10-49 years old, thedecreasing total fertility rate and increasing fluoride levels. Another studyexamined the effects on reproduction in screech owls of long-term sodiumfluoride dietary at 0, 40 and 200 ppm. The result suggested that sodiumfluoride could cause slight to moderate reproduction disorders in owls influoride-polluted areas (“Reproductive Effects of Fluoride Is Linked to LowerBirth Rates, Sperm, and Testosterone”).
American Dental Association (ADA)throws doubts about the accuracy of these study results. ADA acknowledges thatextremely high levels of fluoride have been shown to have adverse effects onreproductive outcomes in animals. But the associations seem to be far higher inanimals (100-200 ppm) than to which human populations are exposed.
There is nosufficient evidence that community water fluoridation (0.7-1.2 ppm) would havethe same effect on human reproduction. As for the study trying to show theassociation of county birth rates with fluoride levels greater than 3 ppm, ADAasserts that there were serious limitations in design and analysis, and thestudy failed to demonstrate a positive correlation (ADA).Regardless ofthe possible risks associated with high levels of fluoride; there have beentons of studies and authoritative data to support the safety and oral benefit ofcommunity water fluoridation. Fluoride benefits children and adults throughouttheir lives; especially for children under age 8, fluoride helps strengthen thepermanent teeth that are developed under the gums. In fluoridated communities,on average school children have 2 fewer decayed teeth compared to the childrenwho don’t live in fluoridated communities.
Much of the fluoride in the body isexcreted. The almost all the retained fluoride is found in hard tissues, suchas bones and teeth. With more than 60 years of research and practical experience,the credible science has indicted that community water fluoridation is safe. Publicwater fluoridation also provides economic benefit especially for those whodon’t have access to dental care. For every $1 invested in water fluoridationit saves $38 in dental treatment costs (ADA). A study examined among Australianchildren whether water fluoridation modified the association between dentalcaries and sugar-sweetened beverage (SSBs) consumption. They collected datafrom 16,508 children aged from 5 to 16 about their drinking water sources,toothbrushing frequency, socioeconomic status and SSBs. Children from ruralareas and who brushed their teeth less often, were older, males and with lowersocioeconomic status consumed greatly more SSBs, therefore, caries was alsosignificantly greater among these children.
The increased exposure of waterfluoridation helped to improve dental decay related to SSB consumption. Theprimary purposes of public water fluoridation were having better dental healthand saving money. The Australian study also showed the correlation of SSBconsumption and children in rural area with lower socioeconomic status and whobrushed their teeth less often. This means that the consumption of fluoridatedwater provide these children both dental and economic benefits.
As mentionedabove, high levels of water fluoride could damage the brain development inchildren. Broadbent et al. in New Zealand conducted a study in hoping toclarify the relationship between the two factors. However, this time, the studysamples resided in the area where the community water fluoridation level was0.5 milligram fluoride tablets. The researchers assessed IQ repeatedly betweenages 7 to 13 and followed up after 38 years.
The variables factors such as sex,socioeconomic status, breastfeeding, and birth weight were included. No cleardifferences in IQ between the children who were exposed to fluoridated waterand who were not. Even in the movie Dr.Strangelove,community fluoridation was described as a Communist conspiracy to destroyAmericans’ willpower. A movie plot definitely can’t be taken seriously.Besides, there have been a number of studies about whether fluoride could harmour body and they suggested the possibility of harm was small.
As well-educatedpeople, we choose where we get the information from and whether we shouldbelieve them or not. Facing so manystudies that proved or disproved each other’s conclusions, the public can getreally confused. Sometimes, we are lost and don’t know who to believe. Whatshould we do in order to maximize our benefits as individuals? The mostimportant thing is to have a good understanding of water fluoridation and viewthe subject with scientific attitudes. We know that fluoride provides dentalhealth benefit against cavities, which was the purpose for the governments tofluoridate public water, instead of a mass mind-control scheme.
And we alsoknow that very high levels of fluoride can be toxic to the brain, nerve cellsand weakening the skeleton. The human studies that showed the possible linkbetween fluoride and learning, memory and cognition deficits were based onfluoride exposure higher than the amount in U.S. water supply.
In 2015, theU.S. Public Health Service lowered the recommended fluoride level in drinkingwater. Finally, individuals have different required amount for fluoride intake.For some populations who are highly vulnerable to fluoride in drinking water,they must be careful about their intake or switch to lower or fluoride-freewater resources (“Is Fluoridated Drinking Water Safe?”).It is impossiblefor everyone to see eye to eye. As we can see, the community water fluoridationdebate is going to continue.
Whether we are in favor of water fluoridation oron the opposite of it, the most important thing is to get educated and look atit with scientific attitudes. Comparing with our own situation, we would beable to utilize water fluoridation and maximum the benefits.