As you have undoubtedly heard by now, the government is lowering the recommended amount of fluoride added to drinking water for the first time in more than 50 years. Since 1962, the government has been advising water systems maintain a level of 0.7 parts per million for warmer climates, where people drink more water, to 1.2 parts per million in cooler areas. The new standard is 0.7 ppm everywhere. Grand Rapid, Michigan, became the world’s first city to add fluoride to its drinking water in 1945. Six years later, a study found a dramatic decline in tooth decay among children there, and the US surgeon general endorsed water fluoridation. But adding fluoride was – and has remained – controversial. Some people have vehemently fought adding fluoride to local water supplies.
Here are some facts you should know about fluoride. Fluoride is a natural element found in rocks and soil everywhere. In fact, waters in and around the United States have natural fluoride levels that range from 0.1 to more than 12 parts per million. Some communities are lucky enough to have naturally occurring levels of fluoride in the optimal range. However, most are not. Adjusting the fluoride level by either adding to or removing fluoride from the supply has helped reduce the incidence of tooth decay by 18-40% among children and 35% in adults.
Despite the evidence that fluoride has helped reduce the incidence of tooth decay in areas that have optimal levels of fluoride there are still those that fear fluoride is toxic. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “ Acute fluoride toxicity occurring from the ingestion of optimally fluoridated water is impossible. The amount of fluoride necessary to cause death for a human adult (155 pound man) has been estimated to be 5-10 grams of sodium fluoride, ingested at one time. This is more than 10,000-20,000 times as much fluoride as is consumed at one time in a single 8-ounce glass of optimally fluoridated water. The possibility of adverse health effects from continuous low level consumption of fluoride over long periods has been extensively studied. As with other nutrients, fluoride is safe and effective when used and consumed properly. No charge against the benefits and safety of fluoridation has ever been substantiated by generally accepted scientific knowledge. After 50 years of research and practical experience, the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that fluoridation of community water supplies is both safe and effective.”
While 1.2 ppm is still considered a safe level of fluoride, today people have easier access to other fluoride containing products like toothpaste and mouthwash reducing the necessity for higher fluoride levels in the drinking water .