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Brooksville policy on fluoride lacking in science

To all of the very valid, very important reasons to return fluoride to the city of Brooksville's water supply — it saves money in dental care, it helps spare folks the agony of going through life with a mouthful of rotting teeth — add this:

By keeping it out of the water, city leaders look like they don't want to listen to science — that they might be just a bit backward.

Especially Mayor Lara Bradburn, who has been the most willing to question the value of fluoride in drinking water, which is kind of like being the most willing to question the roundness of the earth.

The science is clear, said Johnny Johnson, a pediatric dentist from Palm Harbor, who tried to explain this to the Brooksville City Council on Monday night, just as he previously did to the Pinellas County Commission, which removed fluoride from its drinking water in 2011, then voted to return it a year later.

Here's just a little bit of that science, and history:

In the early 20th century, Frederick McKay, a Colorado dentist, noticed his patients tended to have brown and mottled, but also cavity-free teeth. McKay traced this condition to the naturally high levels of fluoride in the local drinking water.

The first large-scale tests to show that much lower levels of fluoride could reduce tooth decay without the side effects took place just after World War II in several cities, including Grand Rapids, Mich.

The evidence was so compelling, and was gathered so quickly, that the study was canceled to allow cities that had agreed to go fluoride-free for the sake of comparison to immediately add fluoride to their water supplies.

And even now, with many other sources of fluoride available, adding it to drinking water reduces cavities by 25 percent, Johnson said.

Search the Internet and you can find that fluoride has been used as rat poison.

True enough, Johnson said, but in concentrations many times what is recommended for drinking water — .7 parts per million.

To illustrate its toxicity to humans, he said a baby would have to consume two full tubes of fluoridated toothpaste to receive a fatal dose.

You might also find a 2011 study by scientists from Harvard University that showed a population drinking water with a high level of fluoride had significantly lower IQs than a comparable population drinking purer water.

Problem is, Johnson said, the levels of fluoride that appeared to diminish intelligence were many times higher than those used to prevent tooth decay.

Also, he said, there was no attempt to weed out the impacts of other potential contaminants in the water, including arsenic, and the study's authors have publicly stated that it should not be used as evidence against fluoridating drinking supplies.

Johnson wasn't the only one to speak up for fluoridation Monday.

A representative from the Hernando County Health Department asked that the issue be placed on the council's April 1 agenda.

Bradburn said no, this was a matter for budget discussions months down the road.

That's a curious claim to make, considering that fluoridation would cost a fraction of the $25,000 the council agreed to give to the Florida Blueberry Festival on Monday.

But considering Bradburn's curious stance on fluoridation, it's hardly a surprising claim.

Brooksville policy on fluoride lacking in science 03/05/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 7:48pm]
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