by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Fluoridation has been a controversial issue since fluoride was added to public drinking water in the 1940s to prevent tooth decay.

Now the Department of Health and Human Services has released an “executive summary” of a 13-year analysis of the benefits and risks of fluorides based on a study in which animals were given sodium fluoride in their drinking water.

The study was conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP). The NTP, a research and testing program with the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), found a small number of malignant bone tumors (osteosarcomas) in male rats. The NTP study concluded that there was “equivocal” evidence of carcinogenic activity in male rats.

According to NTP’s standard definition, “equivocal” evidence of carcinogenicity shows a marginal increase of tumors that may be chemically related. The suggestion of “equivocal” evidence of carcinogenic activity as a result of fluoridation is a change from the “zero risk” results the government had assured us of since the first studies were done in 1945.

In addition, the study acknowledged an increased likelihood of dental fluorosis since the 1940s and 1950s when the major sources of fluoride were from drinking water and food. Today, numerous sources of fluoride are available, including dental products containing fluoride, such as toothpaste’s and mouth rinses, fluoride dietary supplements, as well as beverages and foods prepared with fluoridated drinking water.

The report recommends that the U.S. Public Health Service should continue to recommend the use of fluoride to prevent dental decay and continue to support fluoridation of drinking water.

However, it also calls for PHS to sponsor scientific conferences to determine the optimal level of total fluoride exposure from all sources and the appropriate usage of fluoride containing dental products to achieve the benefits of reduced dental decay and to minimize the occurrence of dental fluorosis. Additionally, the report calls for a major educational program which encourages manufacturers of toothpaste to make the fluoride levels in their products easily known. It also calls for the U.S. FDA to review labeling for toothpaste and other fluoride containing products, and for state programs to keep physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and communities informed about the fluoridation status of drinking water.

The United States is one of the few industrialized nations with a major fluoridation program; most countries have outlawed fluoridation or banned it after years of experiments.


SOURCE: U.S. PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE Department of Health and Human Services 200 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20201, DATE: February 1991

TITLE: “Executive Summary of the Review of Fluoride Benefits and Risks”

COMMENTS: Fluoridation has been an emotional and controversial issue since the 1940s when it was first added to public drinking water. Because of this, in our efforts to present the issue as objectively as possible to the Project Censored panel of judges, we relied solely on the report by the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). Notwithstanding the natural inclination of the PHS to defend its long held position and to maintain the status quo on this issue, the report raised some serious questions about the efficacy and safety of adding fluoridation to our water.

However, Project Censored also has received a number of nominations from other sources questioning the advisability of continuing the fluoridation program. One of these sources is Isabel McCord, of the Safe Water Coalition, in Piedmont, California. In her well-documented letter, McCord points out that “Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Spain have outlawed fluoridation of water. West Germany discontinued fluoridation in 1987, after 18 years of experiments. Norway, France, Italy and Japan do not fluoridate their water. Only the United States and the United Kingdom continue fluoridation in the fact of adverse evidence.”

In a lengthy petition/letter, titled “Water Fluoridation and Cancer,” McCord points out that while fluoridation has generally been accepted as good for children’s teeth and without risk to the public, “with each new scientific study we have more reason to believe that fluoridation of water is both unnecessary and a risk to the public health.”

In a strong criticism of the Executive Summary issued by the PHS, John R. Lee, M.D., from Sebastopol, California, blasts the PHS report for “half­-truths, disinformation, errors of omission, and other errors” that fail to present the real danger of fluoridation.

Shirley Graves, from San Anselmo, California, sent along a copy of The Informer, a monthly published in Allegany County, Maryland. A front page article in the September, 1991, issue quoted a research scientist’s warning to the EPA that “immediate action is needed to lower the permitted fluoride levels because certain segments of the U.S. population are currently sustaining fluoride induced injuries such as hip fractures.”

Given the obvious national concern, and the equivocal findings by the Public Health Service, it would appear that the issue of fluoridation deserves to be put on the national agenda.