My name is camille.
I ask a lot of questions.
This post promises the following:
a) my very first interview b) my very first interview, and c) a look at the water you drink everyday!
You ready? Alright.
DOES THE ADDED FLUORIDE IN OUR WATER HELP OR HURT US?
Lucky for me, I actually have an environmental-scientist-aunt whose very job is to regulate the additives in our water. So I'll begin with highlights from that conversation...
CC: Thanks for chatting with us! In your opinion, is the added fluoride in our water safe?
A: "Well, it has been proven that naturally derived fluoride provides stronger teeth. But, the fluoride they put in [the water] isn't naturally occurring, it's man made...so I think it's a matter of opinion."
So, what are the opinions?
"Well, in the same way that there is a difference between synthesized (manmade) fibers and natural fibers (they both can make carpets), manmade stuff always has some kind of byproducts. It may be harmful, it may not."
Uh oh, does that mean the fluoride in our water is harmful?
"So the answer is: the water distributed to the population meets the regulatory action levels that are proven to be safe for human consumption. (How those numbers are arrived at are debatable...I've been doing this for 20 years and the numbers have changed. So what we consider safe today may not be considered safe tomorrow. A lot of this has to do with politics. One corporation says 100 ppm is safe, but activists want zero. So then, I'm a regulator, so I'm sitting in the middle believing, 'well I don't believe the corporations, but I do believe there's a safe number in between'. And so you look at it...and we're [the EPA is] conservative."
So what is your conclusion about the added fluoride?
"Actually, my politics are activist. That's why I do the job I do. And that's why I'm not giving you a yes or no answer, because my personal belief (it isn't scientifically based) is that I have cavities and I've been drinking fluoridated water my whole life. So for me, I make a distinction between naturally occurring and man made.
For example, my husband's grandmother came from a town in Italy where fluoride is naturally occurring in the water, and none of those people have cavities, in the town. She died with all her teeth intact, no cavities! But then I've been drinking fluoridated water my whole life and I have a lot of cavities!"
So, what's the bottom line?
"The bottom line is: water purveyors do not serve the public unsafe water. They are heavily regulated...and the chemical companies show them that fluoride is good for their teeth. But remember, you have to be able to trust the research! And the chemical companies, the pharmaceuticals, are the only ones who can afford this research. Research is very manipulated. That's why I can't give you a yes or no answer. And anybody who does, look at who paid them. The thing I can tell you is that naturally derived fluoride is good for teeth. That is a true statement."
Hmm very informative, but not completely satisfying. While our talk clarified that the added fluoride in our water is not naturally derived, it did not confirm whether that artificial fluoride has different effects on our health, or is "toxic" as some opponents claim. I was now ready to pursue whether ARTIFICAL fluoride is any different from NATURAL fluoride, and whether they have different effects on our health.
To address this, we have to recognize that ARTIFICIAL fluoride is not some chemical baked up in a lab somewhere with a recipe for "fluoride" (yes, that is the way my mind thinks). Instead, we gather ARTIFICAL fluoride as a byproduct of other chemical processes that, yes, (surprisingly) actually do come from toxic industrial waste reactions.
This does concern me. I found that many sources (albeit, "natural" sources, which tend to be a bit extreme) showed research that low levels of this industrial-waste-fluoride have toxic effects on brain and thyroid function.
On the other hand, according to the British Fluoridation Society, "The fluoride ion produced from ARTIFICIAL fluoridation behaves identically to the fluoride ion NATURALLY present in water supplies. It means that, chemically, there is no difference between artificial and natural fluoridation."
While these two opinions may initially seem to conflict (one says ARTIFICIAL=BAD, the other says it doesn't make a difference), I believe they can coexist. Yes, perhaps the ARTIFICIAL fluoride behaves the same as NATURAL fluoride. However, that does not mean we can ignore the low levels of radiation absorbed by that ARTIFICIAL fluoride.
To top it all off, it seems the studies vary in their opinions on whether added fluoride actually does reduce the number of cavities in a population. In some, adding fluoride to the water was beneficial. In others, the addition did not affect any change at all (as an example, look at my aunt's comment on herself versus her husband's grandmother).
These, along with the studies claiming negative effects from the radiation absorbed by ARTIFICIAL fluoride, were the substantial drawbacks I found from water fluoridation. On the other hand, those studies praising water fluoridation for its ability to reduce the incidence of cavities highlighted its necessity in the war on tooth decay. So again, I think we have to look at many factors, including diet and habit, on the extent that added fluoride can prevent cavities.
If it sounds like we didn't come to a definitive conclusion, that's because we haven't :/ It looks like there is evidence that naturally occurring fluoride helps prevent cavities, but that because we derive our fluoride from reactions involving toxic waste, there are low levels of radiation still absorbed by that fluoride. And like I said, that is concerning...
If you are worried about it, the best thing to do would be to attach a water purification system to your faucet. This is the easiest way to remove pollutants from your drinking water. There you go, happy filtering :)