Since the 1940s, Hexafluorosilicic acid (a common form of water-soluble flouride) has been added to the municipal water supply in several counties of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Rebublic of Ireland. This chemical has been proven toxic and corrosive at certain levels, but has support because of its positive effect on tooth enamel in the prevention and treatment of cavities. It was because of this effect that fluoride was added to the water supply in the 1940s. Though the levels of fluoride are kept at a maximum of 4 mg/L with 0.7-1.2 mg/L being the range levels typically remain within, there still may be cause for concern. Fluoride is considered a cumulative toxin, meaning that the small amounts you ingest over time add up in your system, and drinking water is not the only source of flouride in our diets: Toothpaste, infant formula, food, and fluoride supplements account for fair amounts of ingested fluoride as well. Is it morally acceptable that a chemical is introduced into our water supply without our direct consent? Is it acceptable that fluoride was introduced before studies had been conducted about its effects on humans over time?
Douglas Main, “Facts About Fluoridation,” Live Science, June 03, 2013.
Student Researcher: Brittany Peckham, Indian River State College
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
Fluoride has been in most of America’s water supply (and some other countries) for 70 years now. Our dentists speak it’s praises, and most people don’t question it or even know that it exists… But how safe is it? There are actually no conclusive studies that prove fluoride’s safety over a long period of time, such as several years, but a host of studies that show its safety regarding neurological development in children is questionable at least, and even some that show it may lower IQ’s.
The dosage of fluoride cannot be completely controlled, as some people drink more water than others, and levels tend to fluctuate anyway as the amount of fluoride naturally occuring in groundwater has a slight variance of its own. Because the dosage cannot be controlled and fluoride cumulatively adds up in our systems, should we be inclined to doubt its safety in our water when studies have proven its detrimental effects at higher levels? To put this into perspective , fluoride naturally occurs in our water at a level of approximately .3 mg/L, and we are currently drinking water that is at .7-1.2 mg of fluoride per liter, plus the amounts in our food, toothpaste and other oral care products, dental fillings if we have received them, and supplements if we take them. We already know it’s not natural. Now, is it safe?
It certainly seems irresponsible at the least, and possibly unethical, for our government to mandate that fluoride be added to our water supply when they were unsure of its long-term effects. Even more unnerving is the fact that they added it to our water to ingest, which doesn’t seem to make the same logical sense that adding it to topical applications (such as toothpaste) might make. It is worth noting that tooth decay has declined in the United States since fluoridation of our water supplies began. However, it is also worth noting that tooth decay in non-fluoridated areas has declined as well. It would not be good science to say that the reason tooth decay has declined is the fluoridation of water.
The fact that our government has added a potentially harmful chemical to our water supply on the assumption that it will stave off tooth decay without any real, hard evidence that ingesting it (as opposed to applying it topically) will be effective, is apparently irresponsible and certainly raises some questions about the ethics involved, as this decision seems to infringe upon the autonomy of U.S. citizens. Should we not be educated on its presence in our water? Should we not be better informed of its possible effects? Certainly, we should have to consent.