Should Fluoride Be In Municipal Drinking Water?

By Rep. Leah Cushman for The Liberty Block

Municipal water fluoridation is a form of forcibly medicating individuals by majority rule. If 51% of voters in a given cohort vote in favor of water fluoridation, the minority who don’t want fluoridated water have no choice but to purchase expensive filtration systems to remove fluoride, travel to collect spring water, or purchase unfluoridated bottled water. Municipalities must bring the issue to a vote in the town before a policy of water fluoridation is adopted, but many people don’t have time to partake in the process, or are unaware that the question is on the table. Many people are unaware that their tap water is already fluoridated, despite their town website or newspaper publishing such information. The reality is that most people don’t look.

The last time that the question of adding fluoride to drinking water was brought to communities for a vote was in the year 2000, in all the towns that were supplied by Manchester Water Works. Fluoridation won by 1% in an election that had a very low turnout. Effectively, 15,000 people decided the fate of 150,000. The dental lobby had spent tens of thousands on ads and mailers according to their own internal documents, and had a former US Surgeon General as their key spokesperson. That’s what pushed them over the edge for the close win.

If fluoride supplementation is a concern, individuals can make the choice to either purchase inexpensive fluoride tablets, or use fluoridated dental products or treatments, or both. This should not be a community decision for which taxpayers foot the bill, but an individual decision.

Topical fluoride application, such as brushing teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, using fluoridated mouth rinses, or receiving fluoride treatments at the dentist, have demonstrated significant benefit in preventing tooth decay. However, ingestion of fluoride in drinking water has been shown to be harmful. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 41% of adolescents (12-15 years of age) in the U.S. had dental fluorosis, a permanent discoloration and weakening of their enamel caused by ingesting too much fluoride from birth to 8 years of age.  Dental fluorosis is internationally recognized as a visible sign of systemic toxicity caused by fluoride. The rate of dental fluorosis had increased over 400% from the rates found a decade after the widespread start of the fluoridation in the 1950s. 

In 2019, just before the public hearing on HB192 (abolishing fluoridation), the CDC published updated data showing that 65% of adolescents now had dental fluorosis.  This was a 60% increase from the fluorosis rates reported by the CDC when the NH legislature passed the fluoridation-warning bill into law to protect infants. 

Experts in environmental health have taken notice of the harmful effects of fluoride. In 2014 the US Department of Health and Human Services lowered the recommended level of fluoride in public water supplies throughout the country by 40% from 1.2ppm to 0.7ppm due to the CDC’s data showing overexposure in fluoridated communities. Ten of NH’s public water supplies were fluoridating at a level of 1.0ppm during this time, so our levels dropped by 30% to 0.7ppm.

The former director of both the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health, Toxicologist and microbiologist, Linda Birnbaum, PhD, co-authored an op-ed appearing in the Environmental Health News entitled, It is time to protect kid’s developing brains from fluoride. It highlights the mounting evidence that fluoride is impairing brain development, and compares the response from the public health community to the delayed response to the obvious harm caused by lead.

With the passing of time came more rigorous primary peer-reviewed studies showing the harms of ingesting fluoride in water. Green (2019) reported substantial IQ loss in Canadian children from prenatal exposure to fluoride from water fluoridation. Riddell (2019) found a shocking 284% increase in the prevalence of ADHD among children in fluoridated communities in Canada compared to non-fluoridated ones. These study findings corroborate earlier studies showing the neurotoxic effects of fluoride (see reference list below). The claims made by proponents of fluoridation that there is only “one or two studies” finding harm, or that they are only from areas with naturally high fluoride levels, are no longer relevant. The scientific evidence can now be considered overwhelming and undeniable. 

Most importantly, the legislature has a duty to protect residents from harm, particularly that carried out by the very government bodies they have authority over. Fluoridation has been proven harmful, and at best poses a high and unnecessary risk to our most vulnerable citizens, including infants, the fetus, and those with liver, kidney, and thyroid impairment. The same claimed oral health benefits can easily and cost-effectively be gained using alternative community-wide oral health solutions like school screening and sealant programs, as well as greater access to mid-level providers. In short, 51% of voters cannot decide that 100% of residents ingest a harmful substance.

In 2019, a bill to abolish municipal water fluoridation in New Hampshire passed out of the House Resources, Recreation, and Development Committee with a bipartisan 16-3 vote of Ought to Pass, but was tabled on the House floor by Democratic leadership. This year, I have brought the bill back, with an added clause to prohibit fluoridation of drinking water in schools. HB 611, an act abolishing fluoridation in water, will be heard before the House Resources, Recreation, and Development Committee on Wednesday, January 27th at 3:00PM. Let’s hope that our new Republican-led House will take a pro-active step for liberty and health, and end this practice in New Hampshire once and for all.

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REFERENCES FOR FLUORIDATION’S NEUROTOXICITY 

1. National Research Council, Fluoride in Drinking Water, 2006, p. 222 https://www.nap.edu/catalog/11571/fluoride-in-drinking-water-a-scientific-review-ofepas-standards  

2. Choi et al, Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Environmental Health Perspectives, July 20, 2012 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3491930/ 

3. Bashash et al, Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Cognitive Outcomes in Children at 4 and 6-12 Years of Age in Mexico, Environmental Health Perspectives, Sept. 19, 2017 https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/ehp655/ 

4. Till et al, Community Water Fluoridation and Urinary Fluoride Concentrations in a National Sample of Pregnant Women in Canada, Environmental Health Perspectives, Oct. 10, 2018 https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/EHP3546 

5. Dana Dovey, “Children’s IQ Could be Lowered by Mothers Drinking Tap Water While Pregnant,” Newsweek, Sept. 19, 2017 https://www.newsweek.com/childrens-iq-could-be-lowered-drinking-tap-water-while-pregnant-6

6. Malin et al, Fluoride Exposure and Thyroid Function Among Adults Living in Canada: Effect Modification by Iodine Status, Environment International, Dec. 2018 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=till+malin+fluoride+thyroid 

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7. Brian Bienkowski, “We Add It to Drinking Water for Our Teeth – But is Fluoride Hurting Us?” Environmental Health News, Oct. 10, 2018 https://www.ehn.org/we-add-it-to-drinking-water-for-our-teeth-but-is-fluoride-hurting-us-2611193177.html 

8. Green et al, Association Between Maternal Fluoride Exposure During Pregnancy and IQ Scores in Offspring in Canada, Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Aug. 19, 2019 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6704756/ 

9. Ben Guarino, “Study Raises Questions About Fluoride and Children’s IQ,” Washington Post, Aug. 20, 2019 https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/08/19/study-raises-questions-about-fluoride-childrens-iq/ 

10. Riddell et al, Association of Water Fluoride and Urinary Fluoride Concentrations with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Canadian Youth, Environment International, Dec. 2019 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019315971?via%3Dihub 

11. Bashash et al, Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Symptoms in Children at 6-12 Years of Age in Mexico City, Environment International, Dec. 2018 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412018311814?via%3Dihub 

12. Malin et al, Exposure to Fluoridated Water and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Prevalence Among Children and Adolescents in the United States: An Ecological Association, Environmental Health, Feb. 27, 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4389999/

13. Till et al, Fluoride Exposure From Infant Formula and Child IQ in a Canadian Birth Cohort, Environment International, Jan. 2020 (originally issued online in 2019) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019326145?via%3Dihub

14. National Toxicology Program, Draft NTP Monograph on the Systematic Review of the Fluoride Exposure and Neurodevelopmental and Cognitive Health Effects, Sept. 6, 2019 http://fluoridealert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019.ntp_.draft-fluoride-systematic-review.online-Oct-22.pdf

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