On Monday at the National Oral Health Conference, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in association with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), announced that they're lowering the amount of fluoride they recommend pumping into America's water supplies.
In an interview, Deputy Surgeon General Boris Lushniak defended the practice of fluoridation, and said that the new recommendation comes after opponents of fluoridation have had their say."We listened to the concerns of the people in the United States, but the science is behind us: Fluoride prevents tooth decay," Lushniak said.
The decision to decrease the amount of fluoride in drinking water comes after four years and 19,000 public comments made to the HHS—18,500 of which, Lushniak said, were all form letter from an organization he wouldn't name.
Fluoridation is an oddly controversial subject and has been for years; if you're familiar with conspiracy theories about it, that's probably because it was parodied by Stanley Kubrick in Dr. Strangelove. But there are plenty of present-day, nonfictional people who believe the chemical is a nefarious plot. Infowars' Alex Jones, for one, believes that the fluoride program is allowing the government to pocket "financial windfalls," from someone who is "mass medicating the public against their will."
On Monday, Jones's website linked to the Associated Press piece about this new fluoride recommendation, but did not editorialize about it. But commenters didn't hold back in expressing their displeasure:
The CDC attempted to address these concerns earlier this month in its latest statement on fluoride. In it, the agency once again touted it as "1 of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century," a reference to their official top ten list.
Related: For more water controversies, check out our documentary about America's tainted waterways.
That report pointed to a systematic review of water fluoridation that found no documented links to a huge laundry list of problems including heart disease, cancer, Down syndrome, low IQ and Alzheimer's, brittle bones, kidney problems, or even the notorious fluoride allergy.
You get the sense that government health officials are really, really sick of disproving these accusations. "I want to dispel the idea of danger related to fluoride," Lushniak said. He pointed to a specific report from 2006 that exonerated fluoride as a cause of health problems. (Anti-fluoridation activists, most prominently a scientist named Robert J. Carton, took issue with this report, naturally.)
So why reduce the amount of fluoride at all? Lushniak said the previous recommended amount sometimes caused "white marks" on the developing teeth of people who are now getting too much fluoride thanks to the additional fluoride in their toothpaste or mouthwash. "I'm readjusting the standard based on the fact that other sources of fluoride are available," he said.
Lushniak says he's heard from plenty of people who are worried about fluoride."We looked through all this," Lushniak said. "We answered the questions, and we feel more confident than ever that we're making the right decision."
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