HHS Aims To Lower Fluoride In Drinking Water

Fluoride in drinking water is a contentious issue, scientists say it protects our teeth from decay, while a considerable number of people have been campaigning against water fluoridation, saying it is harmful for health. Today, the HSS (US Department of Health and Human Service) and the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) have announced they are taking steps to make sure guidelines and standards on fluoride in drinking water continue protecting dental health, but at the lowest possible levels.

The HHS would like to set the recommend level of fluoride at the lowest end of the optimal range to prevent tooth decay. The EPA says it is reviewing what the maximum levels should be.

The EPA and HHS say their steps are aimed at maintaining the health benefits of water fluoridation, while at the same time protect overall human health, especially children.

The fluoridation of drinking water is seen as "one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century."

HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH., said:

"One of water fluoridation's biggest advantages is that it benefits all residents of a community - at home, work, school, or play. Today's announcement is part of our ongoing support of appropriate fluoridation for community water systems, and its effectiveness in preventing tooth decay throughout one's lifetime."

Peter Silva, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, said:

"Today both HHS and EPA are making announcements on fluoride based on the most up to date scientific data,. EPA's new analysis will help us make sure that people benefit from tooth decay prevention while at the same time avoiding the unwanted health effects from too much fluoride."

Dental fluorosis can occur among children aged 8 years or less. Dental fluorosis results from the excessive intake of fluoride during a child's period of tooth development. The functioning of the ameloblasts (enamel-forming cells) can be disturbed, preventing the normal maturation of the enamel. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the levels of fluoride intake. In mild cases, small white areas appear in the enamel, while in severe cases the teeth appear stained and mottled.

The EPA and HHS say they have reached an understand after looking at available science regarding fluoride's benefits and possible risk to children.

In the vast majority of cases, dental fluorosis in the USA is mild or very mild. Severe dental fluorosis is extremely rare in America.

Americans are exposed to many more sources of fluoride, compared to their ancestors when water fluoridation was first introduced in the 1940s. Apart from water, people may intake fluoride from toothpaste, fluoride applied at a dentist's office, prescription fluoride supplements, and mouth rinses.

The HHS stresses that the dramatic drop in tooth decay in the USA over the last seventy years has been mainly due to water fluoridation and fluoride in toothpaste.

Current recommendations range from 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water. The HHS would like to propose a recommendation of just 0.7 milligrams, with no upper limit.

The HHS believes its proposed recommendation addresses both issues - protecting dental health and human health (side effects) in general.

In a communiqué, the HHS wrote:

"These scientific assessments will also guide EPA in making a determination of whether to lower the maximum amount of fluoride allowed in drinking water, which is set to prevent adverse health effects."


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