Our government first began urging cities to add fluoride to their municipal water systems in the 1950s. That was highly controversial. Groups of people, much like the Tea Parties of today, organized, wrote letters against this practice, claiming that fluoride is a poisonous substance, and in any event was government interference with what we put into our mouths. The people who objected were vilified, called nasty names such as extremists and conspiracy-fanatics. Nevertheless, federal health officials assured us that fluoridation was completely safe and would protect our teeth, especially of our children. Government power overrode all the protests; fluoridation went right ahead, and those who objected were silenced.
Now, it's a half century later, and I was stunned to read in the press about a remarkable turnabout by federal health officials who have made a new review of the science. They say that many Americans are now getting too much fluoride not only in drinking water but also in toothpaste, and this is causing splotches on children's teeth and even more serious problems. A government study now says that 2 out of 5 adolescents have streaking or spottiness on their teeth because they are getting too much fluoride and in extreme cases, teeth can be pitted. The Centers for Disease Control reports that the splotchy tooth condition, which is called fluorosis, is unexpectedly common in youngsters age 12 through 15. The Environment Protection Agency now says that prolonged and high intake of fluoride can increase the risk of brittle bones, fractures and crippling bone abnormalities. The Department of Health and Human Services just announced plans to lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water.
Fifty years ago, anybody who was against fluoridation was considered crazy. Yet today, dental and medical groups applauded the announcement. Anybody who fought the fluoridation battle in the 1950s can now feel vindicated by new research.
Listen to the radio commentary here: