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Government to Lower Fluoride Levels, But Questions Remain

On Dec. 7 MSNBC.com reported that the government has conceded there’s too much fluoride in the water, and plans to lower recommended levels — the first change in nearly 50 years.

Most public water supplies are fluoridated, especially in larger cities, with about 64 percent of Americans drinking treated water. Maryland is the most fluoridated state, Hawaii the least. MSNBC claimed that "drinking water patterns have changed over time," causing a change in fluoride consumption and a corresponding increase in a condition called fluorosis, mostly in adolescents.

A government study showed an increase in tooth spotting or streaking — in extreme cases even pitting, which is often so mild only dentists notice it, and they may not inform unknowing patients. Fluorosis has become much more common since the 1980s, increasing in adolescents from 21 percent to 43 percent.

But there’s more to the fluoride issue than how much is administered or its consequences. Ever since fluoridating water became public policy, many quick-thinking groups have opposed it as mass medication of the public. In 1951 fluoridation became an official policy of the U.S. Public Health Service, and by 1960 treatment of public water supplies was widespread.