The Issue of Tap Water Fluoridation

One very important and controversial issues concerning the topic of tap water quality and safety is the simple process of water fluoridation. There has been a lot of public outrage about the fluoride being put into water that we not only digest but that we use to bathe with as well. Nevertheless water continues to be fluoridated and is backed by authoritative and government entities. Proponents of fluoridating include the Surgeon General, the CDC, the Nation Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the American Dental Association. These advocates ethos and pathos for their rhetoric in persuading the public that fluoridation is not only harmless in low levels but help prevent tooth decay across the nation.

The American Dental Association has stated that fluoridated water has decreased tooth decay by as much as 20–40% as well as saving citizens money by not having to pay for the cavities fluoride is preventing. The ADA claims that 51 million school hours and 164 million work hours are lost each year due to dental related illnesses but with fluoridation communities can lessen the impact of dental illness. All these organizations and federal departments share and stand by the same belief that fluoridating public water for the purpose of preventing tooth decay in children between the ages of 9–12 is beneficial and not harmful to every other age group. They base their argument on early experiments such as the 1945 Michigan fluoride studies, as well as calling fluoridating water in general “1 of 10 great public health achievements of the twentieth century” according to the CDC.

In 2013, at the National Oral Health Conference, Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, boasts that fluoridation is most cost-effective and practical way to help prevent tooth decay in any community across America. Her main argument is that it does not matter what income-level someone is or how often someone can afford to receive routine dental care they can receive the benefits of fluoridation. In addition she says that these benefits will continue throughout one’s life as every generation born since the implementation of fluoridation has enjoyed better oral health. She plans to not only uphold her stance but to expand this practice to reach every American in the U.S.

On the other hand if water fluoridation has a benefit, it is a very minimal one. Recent large scale studies from within the United States have found little practical or statistical difference in tooth decay rates among children that are living in fluoridated versus non-fluoridated areas. Data compiled by the World Health Organization shows that tooth decay rates have declined just as rapidly in non-fluoridated western countries as they have in fluoridated western countries. The National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR), which examined over 39,000 children in 84 areas of the U.S. When the results of NIDR’s study were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, it was found that American children who had lived their whole lives in fluoridated areas did not have less tooth decay than children who had lived their entire lives in non-fluoridated areas.

Organizations like FAN or Fluoride Action Network which is an anti-fluoride movement that wants to bring to light that fluoride is not as safe as the public has been lead to believe. The collective has collected many studies, documents, and court cases as well as obtaining 531 medical doctors, 494 PhD scientists, 341 dentists, 573 chiropractors, 718 registered nurses and 87 pharmacists signatures in 2007 for a professional statement to end water fluoridation. The United States own EPA or Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters that has around 1500 scientists have all gone on record as opposing fluoride because of health risks.

Overall the issue of water fluoridation are very convoluted as there is a plethora of research that points to the benefits of fluoridation and then you have research that points that fluoridation is harmful if not pointless. Major, credited and authoritative organization and people like the CDC or the ADA and the Surgeon General who stand by fluoridation as one of the greatest practices ever put to use and then you have research like that gathered from the World Health Organization that points to its inefficiency and political groups like FAN who say otherwise. In the end, I believe that in order for tap water to be truly safe we have to take care of issues like the involuntary fluoridation of water.

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