Leroy Gebhart: Who can we believe about fluoride?

Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 3:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 3:00 p.m.

Your recent article “U.S. says too much fluoride in water” indicated that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were proposing to reduce the level of fluoride that could be added to public water supplies due to the high incidence of dental fluorosis (yellowing/browning, streaking and pitting of teeth) in children. Currently, the DHHS allows water utilities to add between .7 to 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water (mg/L) to our water supply. The proposed standard is targeted at .7 mg/L of water.

Based on the government’s own statistics, 33 percent to 41 percent of children between the ages of 6-19 have symptoms of dental fluorosis and if one includes those children for whom it couldn’t be definitely determined if they had dental fluorosis, it increases to 40 percent to 48 percent!

When you have almost 50 percent of children suffering from dental fluorosis, I would call that an epidemic, especially when one considers that fluoride is meant to protect children’s teeth. In this instance, the DHHS appears to be deliberately downplaying the significance of the level of dental fluorosis in children, whereas, its normal response is to call a few events an epidemic or disaster. But this is understandable since the DHHS has heavily promoted the use of fluoride for decades, and with the evidence so overwhelming now that children are ingesting too much fluoride, the DHHS is being forced to reluctantly lower the level of fluoride in the water supply.

But is .7 mg of fluoride safe? Will that level prevent dental fluorosis?

In 1997 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the following warning be put on the box of fluoride toothpaste: “Warning: Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than that used for brushing, get medical help or contact a poison control center immediately (emphasis added).” A pea-size dab of toothpaste, if swallowed, is all that is needed to trigger a call to a poison control center! And how much fluoride is contained in this small dab? About one-quarter (.25) of a milligram of fluoride, about the same amount found in one glass of fluorinated water!

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the “safe” maximum contaminant level (MCL) for fluoride is 4 mg/L of water and that that level provides for a margin of safety! Fluoride is considered a contaminant by the EPA when added to the water supply.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right: The DHHS says that .7-1.2 milligrams of fluoride is definitely not healthy; the EPA says that 4.0 milligrams of fluoride is perfectly fine and that that level of consumption has a built-in margin of safety; and, the FDA says to contact a poison control center if one swallows .25 milligrams of fluoride!

As an aside, the American Dental Association (ADA) warned in 2007 that fluoridated water should not be used when mixing baby formula due to the danger of babies developing dental fluorosis. A government agency, the CDC, agreed with this warning!

Is there a level of fluoride ingestion at which dental fluorosis will not occur? Not according to the government’s own data. Based on the results of the National Institute of Dental Research survey of 1986-1987, a report was issued in 1997, (by Heller, Eklund, and Burt) that showed that, when added to public water systems, there was no safe level of fluoride as it related to dental fluorosis. The report also showed that the higher the level of fluoride the higher the incidence of dental fluorosis in children.

So what or whom are we to believe? We have three different government agencies telling us vastly different stories about the safety of fluoride. These agencies also say that fluoride causes dental fluorosis even though it’s supposed to be protecting our teeth! They are also willing to accept a significant amount of “collateral damage” that our children, and we as adults, have to pay for the government’s “war on cavities” (almost 50 percent of children having dental fluorosis). And finally, the government’s own data says that there is no safe level of fluoride ingestion. This brings to mind the most frightening words in the English language: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”

I believe that fluoride should be immediately removed from our water supply. Credible studies show that fluoride, when taken in drinking water, does not reduce cavities. Fluoride works, if it works, only when it is applied topically, either used in toothpaste or obtained through fluoride treatments by a dental practitioner. We have been subjected to this toxin for too long and it causes far more harm than just dental fluorosis.

Public comment on the proposed standard for fluoride can be submitted by email on or before February 14 to CWFcomments@cdc.gov.

Leroy Gebhart,


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