The Gazette

October 18th 2005

FLUORIDATION: AN OBSOLETE PRACTICE.

Claims that water fluoridation is safe and effective such as made by Dental specialist Marcel Tanenbaum (Letters, Oct 17) cannot withstand independent scrutiny. Nobel Laureate Dr. Arvid Carlsson, who led the successful campaign to defeat fluoridation in Sweden in the 1970s, describes it as an obsolete practice (see http://www.fluorideaction.net).

While most North Americans drink fluoridated water, the vast majority of people in industrialized countries worldwide do not. Yet, according to WHO figures, their teeth are just as good, if not better, than those that do (see http://www.fluorideaction.net/who-dmft.htm). The same is found if we compare children's teeth in non-fluoridated Vancouver with fluoridated Toronto.

With the concession (CDC, 1999) that the benefits of fluoride are largely topical not systemic, the general decline in tooth decay in industrialized countries is more likely due to the universal availability of fluoridated toothpaste combined with a higher standard of living than with the risky business of ingesting this highly toxic substance.

While proponents claim that the level of fluoride added to water (1 mg per liter or 1 ppm) is very small, it is in fact over 100 times the level found naturally in mothers milk. This is particularly worrying because there is no adequate margin of safety between the so-called beneficial dose and the toxic dose for several important end points reported in the peer-reviewed literature. These include increased hip fractures in the elderly at 1.5 ppm (Li, 2001); lowered IQ in children at 1.8 ppm (Xiang, 2003); lowered thyroid function at 2.3 ppm (Bachinskii, 1985); lowered fertility at 3 ppm (Freni, 1994) and the recent Harvard PhD thesis which indicates increased risk of osteosarcoma (a frequently fatal bone cancer) in young boys at fluoride levels as low as 0.3 ppm (Bassin, 2001).

To take these risks in order to save a miniscule amount of tooth decay is preposterous. It underlines the problems of having this debate controlled by dental specialists for too long. Such experts know a lot about teeth but very little about fluoride's impacts on rest of the body. 

As far as teeth are concerned, the simple truth is that the strongest correlation with poor teeth is poverty. Governments may feel they can avoid targeting these children with better diet, education and early dental care, by giving them poison, but it is a bad bet. Not only are those with poor nutrition more vulnerable to fluoride's toxic effects but most experts concede that fluoride cannot fight the ravages caused by "baby bottle tooth decay" -the main cause of the decay in primary teeth which produces the horror stories reported in your paper.

Opponents of fluoridation include many doctors, dentists and prominent scientists worldwide as well as 11 Unions representing over 7000 professionals working at the US EPA. See the online petition at http://www.powalliance.org/petition

I am prepared to come to Montreal to speak in private with your political candidates for municipal office on this matter as well as debate the scientific merits of this practice with any promoter of fluoridation, including Marcel Tenenbaum.

Paul Connett, PhD
Professor of Chemistry,
St. Lawrence University,
Canton, NY 13617