(Bill Hughes / Associated…)
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that they will recommend lowering the amount of fluoride in public water supplies because most people are now getting large quantities of the protective agent from other sources, including toothpaste, mouthwashes, prescription supplements and fluoride applied by dental professionals. As a consequence, some children's teeth are becoming mottled because of overexposure to fluoride. The agency will recommend that public health authorities add only 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water to water supplies, which is the bottom end of the currently acceptable range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter.
Despite the objections of a few crazies who have claimed that fluoridation represents a plot by the government to control their minds, the addition of fluoride to water beginning in the 1940s has been recognized as one of the great public health measures of the 20th century, markedly reducing cavities, especially in children. Today, about 64% of Americans drink public water supplies that have been fluoridated. But the addition of all those other fluoride products means that some kids have been getting too much. About two out of every five children, according to some recent studies, have lacy white spots or markings on their teeth that, although barely visible except by dentists, can weaken teeth in the long run. The condition is called fluorosis. A much smaller number have much more severe staining and pitting of the teeth, usually caused by much higher exposure to fluoride.
More information about fluoridation is available here. A prepublication version of the proposed fluoride recommendations is available here.