If fluoridated water is harmful, then we are in big trouble. All the water in the world is naturally fluoridated — every drop that makes contact with the earth.
All river water, well water, filtered water, reverse osmosis water, bottled water, and tap water is fluoridated. The only water that isn’t is rain water collected in sterile containers, and distilled water.
As soon as rain contacts the earth it begins to dissolve natural fluorine compounds, like calcium fluoride, found in soil and rocks. The compounds dissolve (ionize) in water. The fluoride ions in solution are what fluoridates the water.
It’s not surprising that natural fluoridation happens so easily. Fluorine is the 17th most abundant element and its compounds are found everywhere. Fluorine is the most reactive element (electro-negative) of all.
The concentration natural fluorides depends on the acidity of the water and length of time in contact with rocks and soil. So, river water is less fluoridated than well water. Kamloops’ water naturally has about one-half the fluoride concentration necessary to prevent tooth decay.
There is no difference between fluorine from natural sources and fluorides from artificial sources. Once dissolved, you can’t tell one fluoride ion from another. There are no “tags” on the fluorine ions that indicate that one fluoride ion is from a natural source and another fluoride ion is not. All fluorine ions are created equal.
Fluorides are stored in teeth and bones which strengthens them by aiding in the retention of calcium. It also decreases the incidence of rickets in children.
Artificial fluoridation is achieved by the use of sodium fluoride, or sodium fluorosilicate, or fluorosilic acid. Kamloops gets its fluorosilic acid from Stanchem Inc. and they get it from Florida. Fluorosilic acid is a byproduct of the fertilizer industry.
Fluorosilic acid is used to bring concentrations of fluorides in our water up to the level proven to prevent cavities in teeth. Not all water needs artificial fluorides to make it effective in cavity reduction. Some water has natural fluorides in the recommended concentration of 1 part per million.
Fluoridated water, artificial or natural, with concentrations from 2 ppm to 10 ppm cause white spots on teeth and above that, brown stains appear. Except in very high concentrations, the discolouration is a cosmetic not a health problem. The spots, called fluorosis, are not pretty in the extreme. But not as bad as rotten teeth – – which can not only ruin your looks, but your health as well.
Naturally over-fluoridated water led to the discovery of the connection to decay reduction. In the early 1900s, a Colorado Springs dentist, Frederick S. McKay, noticed that many of his patients had brown stains on their teeth and reduced cavities. McKay set out to find the cause. Later he found that there was an association between the water that his patients drank and the reduced cavities and the stains.
By the 1940’s, natural fluorides were identified as a remedy in cavity reduction. If the concentrations were reduced to one part per million, the beneficial qualities of remained and the fluorosis disappeared.
Fluoridation improves the health of children in poor families who might not be able to afford dentists, toothpaste, or even a tooth brush. Fluoridation reduces the gap in health between the rich and poor.
“Community water fluoridation remains one of the great achievements of public health in the Twentieth Century — an inexpensive means of improving oral health that benefits all residents of a community, young and old, rich and poor alike,” says Dr. David Satcher, Surgeon General of the United States.
There are some serious questions about the use of fluorosilic acid as a fluoridating agent. The claim is that our fluorosilic acid is contaminated with toxic metals and trace amounts of radioactive isotopes. But a question doesn’t constitute a proof.
Meanwhile, there are convincing studies that show fluoridation works to reduce cavities and improve everyone’s health. The volume of studies in favour of fluoridation far outweighs those against.
Note for CBC Radio 2 fans: Those who sent a letter to the CBC after my column, July 4, 2000, probably already know this. But for everyone else, Radio 2 will begin broadcast on October 1. You are welcome to attend a kick-off concert at UCC’s Grand Hall at 12:30pm.