Maybe it’s a sad commentary on the state of our society that it’s so easy to overloook good news – even more so during weeks like this past one, dominated by news surrounding the Tucson shooting – but there was some good news that we almost missed: the Department of Health and Human Services proposed lowering the “recommended” amount of fluoride in drinking water.
According to the LA Times report on the decision,
The HHS move came in the wake of a government study showing that about 2 out of 5 adolescents have tooth streaking or spottiness because of excessive fluoride. In extreme cases, teeth can become pitted.
The dangers may go beyond cosmetic issues. The EPA released two new reviews of research on fluoride Friday. One study found that prolonged, high intake of fluoride can increase the risk of brittle bones, fractures and crippling bone abnormalities.
Since 1962, the fluoridated water standard has been set at a range of 0.7 parts per million for warmer climates, where people’s water intake was greater, to 1.2 parts per million in cooler regions. The new proposal from HHS would fix the recommended level at 0.7.
Although HHS recommends the level, it is up to the EPA, which regulates drinking water, to set a legal, enforceable standard. The EPA said Friday it is reviewing whether to lower the maximum allowable level of fluoride in drinking water from the current 4 parts per million – a move urged by several consumer groups.
“This decision is another signal to the public to take care when it comes to exposures to industrial chemicals,” said Jane Houlihan, senior vice-president of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based nonprofit organization. “What is considered safe today won’t necessarily be thought safe tomorrow.”
She said Friday’s announcement is just the first step: “Now it’s up to water utilities to respond and for the EPA to lower its too-high legal limit on fluoride in drinking water, which is more than five times the new maximum being recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services.”
But an important first step it is. Added fluoride has no business in our water supply. (For a quick rundown of the whys, see the Fluoride Action Network’s fluoridation FAQs.)
Image by Cyron, via Flickr