Liying Grand Rapids’s decay level among 6-year-old children was

Liying Zhou

Professor Sterrantino

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ENGL 2010-02

8 December 2017

Research Paper Final Draft

What’s
Behind Our Drinking Water?

            Fluoride
is more common in our life than we think. It is not just a waste byproduct from
the aluminum industry. Fluoride is a natural mineral widely found in water,
oil, or air. Though, it is not an essential growth development of human. In
fact, fluoride also exists in drinking water and our toothpaste.  Fluoride does provide benefit of protecting
teeth in two ways: systemically and topically (ADA). Public water fluoridation
has existed for more than 70 years in about 24 countries around the world (One In A Million: The Facts About Water
Fluoridation). Despite of some controversies and conspiracy theories
related to water fluoridation, its safety and benefits have been proven by
studies. Water fluoridation provides benefits such as better dental health, as
long as with the proper amount of fluoride.

            There
are two types of water fluoridation: natural water fluoridation and artificial
water fluoridation. The history started with an American dentist named Dr.
Frederick McKay in 1901. McKay noted that the brown stain on teeth was
associated with lower decay rates. After several case studies, he suggested
that the natural fluoridated water supply might be responsible for the cause of
the stain. Later on, H.V. Churchill, who was a chemist from ALCOA (the Aluminium
Company of America), according to his study, fluoride was the common factor in
several areas where the straining was endemic. The US Public Health service
designated Dr. H.T. Dean to conduct the famous study “21-City Study” which showed
the reduced tooth decay with fluoridated water supply. Therefore, in 1945,
Grand Rapids in Michigan became the first town in the word that added
artificially fluoride to public drinking water. Before the water was
fluoridated, the decay level in Grand Rapids was similar to its neighbor town
Muskegon. Six years later, Grand Rapids’s decay level among 6-year-old children
was almost half of the neighbor town. Some other cities in the U.S., Canada,
New Zealand, U.K. and Ireland followed the step of Grand Rapids (Mullen). Currently,
besides the 24 countries with artificial fluoride to their public drinking
water; there are another 28 countries that have naturally fluoridated water (One In A Million: The Facts About Water
Fluoridation).  In 2014, 74.4% of
Americans had access to fluoridated water, and CDC estimated this number would
continue to grow. By 2020, 79.6% of the population would receive fluoridated
water that has the optimum level of fluoride of preventing tooth decay.  Ever since community water fluoridation was
applied in the United States in 1945, CDC asserted it as one of the greatest
public health achievements of the 20th century (CDC). Except for
United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, the majority of European countries do
not add artificial fluoride to their drinking water. This is because the
natural fluoride levels in these countries were already above the recommended
level (One In A Million: The Facts About
Water Fluoridation). Some antifluoride organizations always use this as one
of the reasons of oppose fluoridation that most European countries refuse to
fluoridate their water. And this is the fact that those organizations would try
to hide from their claims.

            However,
some people are not comfortable with of idea of adding artificial fluoride to
water; meanwhile, there are also some water fluoridation related conspiracy
theories out there in terms of political, moral, ethics, safety and economic
reasons. During 1940s-1960s when the history was called “Red Scare’ in the
United States, there were some right political activities who asserted that
community water fluoridation was a communist plot to harm American public
health. In the political film Dr.
Strangelove released in 1964, fluoridation was presented as the conspiracy:
“Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and
dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?”( Haynes). Besides, Dr.
Charles Bett who is a famous anti-fluoridationist in history, he claimed that
fluoridation was a better weapon than the atom bomb because Americans dumped
themselves into the water just as communist desired (Johnston). So what was the
foundation of this communist plot conspiracy theory? The history dated back to
World War II from Nazis Germany and Russian’s famous concentration camps. The
Internet history resources claimed that in the ghettos where the Jews stayed
and other prison camps, sodium fluoride was added into drinking water. The
Nazis didn’t mean to strengthen the teeth of course, on the contrary, Nazis was
attempting to make the people in the areas become docile and stupid. Also,
Russia used the same method to reduce its prisoners’ power of resistance. Mr.
Harley Rivers Dickinson, who was a Liberal Party Member of the Victorian
Parliament in Australia, made a statement: “At the end World War II, the U.S.
government sent a research worker Charles Elliot Perkins to Germany. Mr.
Perkins was told by the German General Staff that the repeated doses of
infinitesimal amounts of fluoride will in time reduce an individual’s power to
resist domination by slowly poisoning and narcotizing a certain area of the
brain, and will thus make him submissive to the will of those who wish to
govern him.” (PoisonPaste). It is well-known that during the war time, Nazis
spent a lot of time and focused on chemistry and pathology research and
experiments to control Jews. Nazis did not add fluoride to water because they
cared about their enemies’ teeth health. Besides, let’s look at the background
of Mr. Harley Rivers Dickinson who claimed the Nazis fluoridation scheme. There
is no much information about Dickinson. All we know is that he was an
Australian politician and was known for his idiosyncratic approach to life.
People can claim whatever they believe is true; being a politician doesn’t make
a person’s words more reliable. Dickinson’s brief biography can be
found on The Geelong College website. Dickinson was working as an Administrator
for Papua-New Guinea Department; later he returned to Australia and took the
position of the executive Officer and assistant secretary of the Victorian
Chamber of Manufacture. He also supported community organizations and published
a collection of his paintings (The Geelong College). The biography
doesn’t mention anything about Dickinson’s claim on Nazis fluoridation. We
don’t know if he ever did say such thing. Even if he did, his background didn’t
seem to be involved with any history studies on Nazis activities.

If it made senses that Nazis and Russia used
fluoridated water as a mass mind-control scheme on their enemies, how can it be
explained that nowadays including U.S., Australia, Canada, Ireland and the UK,
the governments use public water fluoridation to control their own citizens?
These are the most powerful countries in the world. Instead of focusing on
becoming stronger, they are trying to make their people stupid and docile? This
doesn’t make senses at all. Therefore, some conspiracy theorists give another
reason why the governments would fluoridate drinking water. Before the Second
World War, industrial fluoride pollution was increased very quickly because the
use of aluminum in aircraft manufacturing. Manufactures could no longer dump
the fluoride waste into river or landfills as the crops and livestock were
getting poisoned by it. An ALCOA sponsored biochemist found that fluoridated
water could reduce cavities, thus, the US government decided to fluoridate
water in 1939. In another words, the US government created a way for the
industries to dispose the fluoride waste. ALCOA became the company that
benefited the most from fluoridated water. In this theory, people are really
sensitive about the background of Gerald Cox who was
sponsored by ALCOA and discovered that fluoride helps prevent cavities. People
highly doubt the motivation behind the study done by the company and the result
he came up with. Besides ALCOA, there were other companies involved with the
fluoride research studies, such as American Petroleum Institute, Aluminum
Company of Canada, Kaiser Aluminum, US Steel, Reynolds Steel and Dupont (Wark).
An industrial waste is the material that is an additional output of a given
process and has no useful purpose. Fluoride is certainly not the case, because
fluoridated water provides the benefit of dental health. The website ilikemyteeth.org
uses an interesting analogy to illustrate this. Fluoride is just like pumpkin
seeds and pumpkin pie that are byproducts of a pumpkin. The fluoride added to
the water is a byproduct of phosphate rock processed for other purposes (“Where
Does Fluoride Come From?”).

In the article “The Conspiracy Theory
Detector” by Michael Shermer, he discusses some signs that can
help people to detect if a conspiracy theory is likely to be true or not. The
conspiracy theorists indiscriminately doubt about any government agencies and
activities, and they refuse to see other explanations that they will seek only
the evidences that support their views. Also, when a conspiracy theory is
involved with a large number of people, the less likely it would be true (Shermer).
Despite the theory that Nazis used fluoridated water to destroy willpower in
the concentration camps, there is another conspiracy theory about water
fluoridation. Some people claim that public water fluoridation is a tool for
the U.S. government uses to control the mind of its people. For this theory to
work, people in the government agencies will have to keep the secret. And it is
extremely difficult for such a huge number of people to keep their mouths shut.
Therefore, this conspiracy theory is less likely to be realistic.

One thing we
cannot deny is that fluoride itself as a chemical element could possibly be
hazardous in some cases proven by the studies. The debate about the possible
link between fluoridated water and cancer risk started from a study in 1990.
The National Toxicology Program (NTP) study showed the evidence that the
increased numbers of osteosarcomas (bone tumor) in male rats given high level
fluoridated water in 2 years. In 2001, a PhD student Elise Bassin from Harvard
University published a study result in peer-reviewed journal. She wrote: “…for
males less than twenty years old, fluoride level in drinking water during
growth is associated with an increased risk of osteosarcoma” (“Fluoride Linked
to Bone Cancer. Again”). However, American Cancer Society asserted the evidence
provided by NTP was equivocal that it did not prove the cancer-causing
potential in female rates or in male or female mice (“Water Fluoridation and
Cancer Risk”). Other studies by Committee to Coordinate Environmental Health
and Related Programs and National Research showed no association between
fluoridated water and cancer. In 1991, Public Health Service reported that
optimal fluoridation of drinking water does not pose a detectable cancer risk
to humans, which was based on a review of more than 50 human epidemiologic
population studies over the past 40 years. In 2011, researcher Kim FM et al.
found a new way to examine the relationship between the two which provided a
more accurate measure of cumulative fluoride exposure than relying on the
memory of study participants or municipal water treatment records. Their
analysis showed no difference in bone fluoride level between people with
osteosarcoma and people in control group (“Fluoridated Water”).

Extremely high
level of fluoride is known to cause neurotoxicity in adults. A recent Harvard
in funded by National Institutes of Health also suggested that children
exposure to high fluoridated water have significantly lower IQ scores than
those who live in low fluoride areas. The researchers from Harvard School of
Public Health and China Medical University in Shenyang performed a systematic
review and meta-analysis on exposure of fluoride drinking water and
neurodevelopmental delays in rural China. And the study reported the average
loss in IQ weighted mean difference of 0.45. One of the researchers Grandjean
said: “Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons that
cause chemical brain drain.” The findings of this study gave us a warning of high
dose fluoride in drinking water, and we shouldn’t ignore the potential risk on
the developing brain (“Impact of fluoride on neurological development in
children”). But we shouldn’t see this result as equal to “fluoride causes lower
IQ and brain damage”. As the study pointed out clearly, the sample areas had
extremely high level of fluoride in drinking water which may exceed 1 mg/L, or
50 Smol/L (Mercola), while the recommended level is 0.7 milligrams
of fluoride per liter of drinking water. (CDC)

An article on
The Telegraph website pointed out that water fluoridation may trigger
depression and weight gain as well. Professor Stephen Peckham and his teams
from the University of Kent compared the records from 7935 general practices
that covered around 95% of the English population in 2012-2013. They found that
high underactive thyroid rates in the areas where the fluoride level excess of
0.3 mg/l were 30% more likely. And underactive thyroid can lead to depression,
weight gain, fatigue, and aching muscles. Yet, previous studies found that
fluoride could inhibit the production of iodine and is essential for a healthy
thyroid. Dr Sandra White from Public Heath English responded that the total
evidences accumulated over decades of research had shown us that the water
fluoridation is safe and effective. Other experts also warned that Peckham’s
study existed population bias (Knapton). The study was linked to only extremely
high concentration of fluoride, which is 10 to 100 times than the amount in our
fluoridated drinking water. Besides, another main reason that Peckham and his
study caused so many attentions from other experts is the background of
Peckham. BBC News described him as an “anti-fluoridation campaigner”, which
suggested the study conclusion could not be objective enough as its researchers
asserted (“Experts Criticize Thyroid Study”).

What’s more,
there are also some experts who throw the question that fluoride is linked to
lower birth rates and disorders in the reproductive system. Freni SC published
on Journal of Toxicology and Environment
Health that in the counties that reported water system fluoride levels of
at least 3 ppm, most regions showed among women range 10-49 years old, the
decreasing total fertility rate and increasing fluoride levels. Another study
examined the effects on reproduction in screech owls of long-term sodium
fluoride dietary at 0, 40 and 200 ppm. The result suggested that sodium
fluoride could cause slight to moderate reproduction disorders in owls in
fluoride-polluted areas (“Reproductive Effects of Fluoride Is Linked to Lower
Birth Rates, Sperm, and Testosterone”). American Dental Association (ADA)
throws doubts about the accuracy of these study results. ADA acknowledges that
extremely high levels of fluoride have been shown to have adverse effects on
reproductive outcomes in animals. But the associations seem to be far higher in
animals (100-200 ppm) than to which human populations are exposed. There is no
sufficient evidence that community water fluoridation (0.7-1.2 ppm) would have
the same effect on human reproduction. As for the study trying to show the
association of county birth rates with fluoride levels greater than 3 ppm, ADA
asserts that there were serious limitations in design and analysis, and the
study failed to demonstrate a positive correlation (ADA).

Regardless of
the possible risks associated with high levels of fluoride; there have been
tons of studies and authoritative data to support the safety and oral benefit of
community water fluoridation. Fluoride benefits children and adults throughout
their lives; especially for children under age 8, fluoride helps strengthen the
permanent teeth that are developed under the gums. In fluoridated communities,
on average school children have 2 fewer decayed teeth compared to the children
who don’t live in fluoridated communities. Much of the fluoride in the body is
excreted. The almost all the retained fluoride is found in hard tissues, such
as bones and teeth. With more than 60 years of research and practical experience,
the credible science has indicted that community water fluoridation is safe. Public
water fluoridation also provides economic benefit especially for those who
don’t have access to dental care. For every $1 invested in water fluoridation
it saves $38 in dental treatment costs (ADA). A study examined among Australian
children whether water fluoridation modified the association between dental
caries and sugar-sweetened beverage (SSBs) consumption. They collected data
from 16,508 children aged from 5 to 16 about their drinking water sources,
toothbrushing frequency, socioeconomic status and SSBs. Children from rural
areas and who brushed their teeth less often, were older, males and with lower
socioeconomic status consumed greatly more SSBs, therefore, caries was also
significantly greater among these children. The increased exposure of water
fluoridation helped to improve dental decay related to SSB consumption. The
primary purposes of public water fluoridation were having better dental health
and saving money. The Australian study also showed the correlation of SSB
consumption and children in rural area with lower socioeconomic status and who
brushed their teeth less often. This means that the consumption of fluoridated
water provide these children both dental and economic benefits. As mentioned
above, high levels of water fluoride could damage the brain development in
children. Broadbent et al. in New Zealand conducted a study in hoping to
clarify the relationship between the two factors. However, this time, the study
samples resided in the area where the community water fluoridation level was
0.5 milligram fluoride tablets. The researchers assessed IQ repeatedly between
ages 7 to 13 and followed up after 38 years. The variables factors such as sex,
socioeconomic status, breastfeeding, and birth weight were included. No clear
differences in IQ between the children who were exposed to fluoridated water
and who were not. Even in the movie Dr.Strangelove,
community fluoridation was described as a Communist conspiracy to destroy
Americans’ willpower. A movie plot definitely can’t be taken seriously.
Besides, there have been a number of studies about whether fluoride could harm
our body and they suggested the possibility of harm was small. As well-educated
people, we choose where we get the information from and whether we should
believe them or not.

Facing so many
studies that proved or disproved each other’s conclusions, the public can get
really confused. Sometimes, we are lost and don’t know who to believe. What
should we do in order to maximize our benefits as individuals? The most
important thing is to have a good understanding of water fluoridation and view
the subject with scientific attitudes. We know that fluoride provides dental
health benefit against cavities, which was the purpose for the governments to
fluoridate public water, instead of a mass mind-control scheme. And we also
know that very high levels of fluoride can be toxic to the brain, nerve cells
and weakening the skeleton. The human studies that showed the possible link
between fluoride and learning, memory and cognition deficits were based on
fluoride exposure higher than the amount in U.S. water supply. In 2015, the
U.S. Public Health Service lowered the recommended fluoride level in drinking
water. Finally, individuals have different required amount for fluoride intake.
For some populations who are highly vulnerable to fluoride in drinking water,
they must be careful about their intake or switch to lower or fluoride-free
water resources (“Is Fluoridated Drinking Water Safe?”).

It is impossible
for everyone to see eye to eye. As we can see, the community water fluoridation
debate is going to continue. Whether we are in favor of water fluoridation or
on the opposite of it, the most important thing is to get educated and look at
it with scientific attitudes. Comparing with our own situation, we would be
able to utilize water fluoridation and maximum the benefits.