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Friday, February 25, 2011

Will the EPA Protect Consumers from Excess Fluoride?

by Jessica Belsky, Change.org

Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a recommendation to lower the level of fluoride in drinking water by a whopping 42 percent. The recommendation followed a government study that showed that two out of five American adolescents showed streaking or spottiness on their teeth due to too much fluoride. In some cases, teeth displayed pitting as well. Now, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) stresses that this proposed reduction is not enough to protect the health of many who drink fluoridated tap water.

Fluoride has long been added to U.S. tap water by water utilities to ward off cavities, but fluoride's benefits versus its array of health risks have been debated for years. Beyond the risk of cosmetic issues with teeth, the possible adverse effects of fluoride span from neurotoxicity to bone cancer.

The EWG claims in a comment letter to HHS that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) risk assessment finds that more than 10 percent of children between six months and six years of age who drink fluoridated water will take in potentially unsafe amounts of fluoride. And it's not just children put at extra risk: Diabetics, athletes, and people with kidney disease may be vulnerable to potential adverse health effects from excess fluoride. The letter states that an EPA scientist proposed a drinking water standard with top fluoride levels set 43 percent lower than the amount HHS recommended after the recent government study. So an EPA scientist is recommending an 85 percent decrease from the current level? It seems that the absolute minimum the EPA can do is lower the fluoride levels in drinking water to the HHS-recommended level.

Fluoride is now found in many places besides the dentist's office. Most toothpastes contain it, and the substance can be found in mouthwash, too. In fact, last month the EPA actually decided to ban a fluoride-based pesticide and food fumigant because it's believed that children are now overly exposed to fluoride.


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