Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier
Kevin Sawyer D.D.S., above, gives Tessa Gross, 4, a lesson in brushing at his Los Altos office. Sawyer said fluoride has been proven to prevent tooth decay.
A preliminary study by city officials on adding fluoride to Los Altos’ water supply has generated a flood of opposition from residents averse to adding another chemical to their drinking water – even if it has health benefits.
Several studies show that fluoride – a naturally occurring element found in rocks, soil and fresh and ocean water – prevents tooth decay in children. Government and health agencies recommend adding it to the public water supply for optimal dental health.
Despite validation from health and environmental agencies that water fluoridation is safe and effective, several residents are concerned about possible side effects.
“I would object to ingesting additional fluoride (in) our drinking water,” said longtime Los Altos resident William Gough. “We should limit our use of fluoride to where it is helpful, that is, directly applied to the enamel of our teeth. We should avoid the possible toxic effects of spreading this fluoride throughout our bodies. It is a poison.”
Council explores fluoridation
At the request of the Los Altos City Council, California Water Service Company (Cal Water) officials last month presented councilmembers information and estimated costs for fluoridating the city’s water.
Councilwoman Val Carpenter said she was “surprised at the fact that our water is not fluoridated” and wanted to learn more about the process.
Cal Water has supplied water to approximately 11,000 connections in Los Altos since 1931. It purchases the water from the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Neither agency fluoridates the water.
Cal Water’s 22 groundwater sources include 18,600 service connections, which serve Los Altos and portions of Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Cupertino. Los Altos receives approximately 70 percent of its water from the district and 30 percent from groundwater wells in the winter months, and approximately 50 percent from each source in summer months.
California’s fluoridated drinking water act, AB 733, became law in 1995. It authorizes water systems with at least 10,000 service connections to fluoridate, but with outside funding – not from ratepayers, shareholders or local taxpayers.
Naturally occurring fluoride levels in Los Altos’ water supply range from 0 to 0.28 milligrams per liter, according to Cal Water District Manager Ron Richardson. Cal Water maintains a neutral position on fluoridation, he added.
Preliminary cost estimates range from $4.5 million to $9.6 million for capital installation and $837,000 for annual maintenance and operations, said Bruce Cabral, water quality manager for the water district. Costs include installation of equipment in the four water-treatment plants, chemical additions and ongoing monitoring and maintenance.
The cities of Mountain View and Palo Alto provide fluoridated water to their residents. Several other water systems in Santa Clara County receive fluoridated water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, including parts of Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Santa Clara and San Jose.
County Supervisor Liz Kniss last August urged water district board members to adopt an official policy in favor of water fluoridation throughout the county.
Kniss said her background in nursing helped her recognize the importance of fluoridation in promoting and protecting the oral health of children, adults and seniors.
“I grew up without fluoridated water, and I had more cavities than teeth,” she said. “The goal is to improve the health of the county, overall. Close to half a million children will benefit from (water fluoridation). My goal is to have fluoridation in place (throughout the county) in the next five years.”
When fluoridation began
Community water fluoridation, widespread since 1945, is touted as one of the 10 greatest public-health achievements of the 20th century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Studies conducted by the American Dental Association report that fluoridation of community water supplies is safe and effective in preventing dental decay – reducing it by up to 40 percent in children and adults. Every $1 spent on fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment, according to the ADA.
Science has proven that fluoride “in very small doses” prevents tooth decay in children, said Kevin Sawyer, D.D.S., who practices in Los Altos Rancho Shopping Center.
“We know fluoride works,” he said. “Fluoride keeps the calcium together, and we can see and feel the changes in the teeth.”
Young children benefit from water fluoridation while their permanent teeth are being formed, whereas the effect among adults is only topical, Sawyer said.
If it benefits only young children, “Why poison the whole population?” asked longtime Los Altos resident Christiane Creighton. “It’s ethically and morally wrong.”
Dosage is crucial
Los Altos parents can probably afford the supplements and dental treatments required for their children if city officials decide not to fluoridate the water, but those living in poorer communities may not be able to, Sawyer said.
Water fluoridation is tricky, and the correct dosage is important, as the amount of water people drink is varied and cannot be regulated, he added.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Jan. 7 announced 0.7 milligrams per liter as the current standard for fluoride in drinking water, replacing the previous temperature-dependent range of 0.7 to 1.2. The EPA is initiating a review of the maximum amount of fluoride allowed in drinking water.
Controversy and concern
Gough, who’s had several years of experience in research and funding in the physical sciences, is skeptical about the agencies’ standards and said he has yet to see sufficient supporting evidence that overcomes the uncertainties involved. He believes they have neglected to study the effects of fluoride on the human body.
“It has taken more than 50 years for the government to recommend lowering the levels of fluoride in drinking water, which was due to the observation of spots on children’s teeth,” Gough said. “What about changes in our bodies that we can’t visually observe due to ingesting fluoride?”
Fluoride toothpaste applied directly to the enamel of the teeth is an effective cavity protection, he said, but fluoride salts are toxic and drinking fluoride-rich groundwater can cause fluoride poisoning, which is why fluoride toothpaste tubes carry a warning.
Contrary to popular belief, “fluoride is neither safe nor effective,” said Los Altos resident Tom Rogers, who has worked in the computer industry for more than two decades. A waste product of aluminum and fertilizer manufacturing, fluoride is toxic enough to be used as a rat poison, he said.
“We as a society are being led down a garden path and being sold a bill of goods,” Rogers said. “We are already exposed to a plethora of toxins in our daily lives. We should not be adding them to our drinking water.”
Los Altos resident Ed Falsetti agreed.
“I feel there’s a mountain of evidence against fluoride,” he said. “It’s a poison, a toxic chemical.”
“It’s alarming to think public water is a vehicle to treat people with chemicals,” said Maureen Jones, archivist and founder of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water.
Several studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association have linked fluoridated water to a rising rate in hip fractures among women in their perimenopause phase, Jones said.
While the issue of fluoridation is a lightning rod that raises links to cancer and other health problems, Kniss said there is no factual evidence or validity to such claims.
According to the World Health Organization’s Web site, fluoride has beneficial effects on teeth at low concentrations in drinking water, but excessive exposure to fluoride can result in adverse effects ranging from mild dental fluorosis to crippling skeletal fluorosis. With the protection of public health as its primary goal, WHO recommends that local authorities take into account social, cultural, environmental and economic considerations before making a decision on water fluoridation.
Matters of funding, engineering and logistics still must be resolved, Los Altos officials said.
Councilmembers and city staff will continue to monitor the water district’s activities before making a decision, Carpenter said.
Water district officials plan to hold a public workshop in March.
For more information, visit www.valleywater.org.
Contact Jana Seshadri at
at Wednesday, 26 January 2011 14:12
There are many large scientific studies to show that that drinking fluoridated water has no effect on cavity reduction and to show that it causes cancer and other health problems. The best source for scientific information on fluoridation can be found here: (www.fluoridealert.org).
If fluoride were \\\"proven,\\\" there should be evidence of its glory in Kentucky, which has been 100% fluoridated for over 40 years. Kentucky, however, leads the nation in the number of dental cavities in children, and in the number of completely toothless adults, according to government records. The same ineffectiveness is evident in many states and cities.
Most of Europe (16 countries) has rejected fluoridation and is 98% fluoride free. and the WHO reports that they have a better tooth decay rate than any fluoridated country.
at Wednesday, 26 January 2011 15:37
It also Cancer Arthritis , Swollen & Aching Joints Digestive system disorders
ulcers and colitis inability to utilize vitamin B and C
Constipation and Nausea Kidney , Bladder , & Urinary Disorders
Circulatory Diseases,Arteriosclerosis,Heart Failure, Hypo & Hypertension
Varicose Veins & Coronary Thrombosis,Mental & Neurological Disorders,Glaucoma & Goiters,Impaired Gland Function,Bone Cancer,Teeth & Gum Diseases,Bone & Calcium Loss,Doubles the chance of hip fracture OsteoporosisThyroid Disorder ( Hyperthyroidism )Brain Damage,Dental & Skeletal Fluorosis Depression,Anxiety & Panic Attacks,Birth Defects,Osteosarcoma and
Destruction of Liberty. " the right to own your own body"
at Thursday, 27 January 2011 10:18
Why do so many people today believe fluoride is safe to ingest?
The scientific literature on the dangers of fluoride has changed over time to assist with generating profits for manufacturers.
at Thursday, 27 January 2011 12:41
Neurologia. 2011 Jan 19.
Effects of the fluoride on the central nervous system.
Fluoride can accumulate in the body, and it has been shown that continuous exposure to it causes damaging effects on body tissues, particularly the nervous system directly without any previous physical malformations.
Several clinical and experimental studies have reported that the F induces changes in cerebral morphology and biochemistry that affect the neurological development of individuals as well as cognitive processes, such as learning and memory. F can be toxic by ingesting one part per million (ppm), and the effects they are not immediate, as they can take 20 years or more to become evident.
The prolonged ingestion of F may cause significant damage to health and particularly to the nervous system. Therefore, it is important to be aware of this serious problem and avoid the use of toothpaste and items that contain F, particularly in children as they are more susceptible to the toxic effect
at Thursday, 27 January 2011 18:45
The American Dental Association, 11/9/2006/ sent an E-gram to dentists warning against reconstituting infant formula with fluoridated water.
The California Environmental Protection Agency\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s office of Health Hazard Assessment 5/29/09 established fluoride and its salts as meriting the highest priority it can recommend for further review toward including fluoride on a Proposition 65 list of chemical for which warning for risks of cancer, birth defects and reproductive toxicity are to be publicly posted.This toxic chemical should not be added to the public drinking water.
at Friday, 28 January 2011 08:09
There are company's out there that offer Water from Air technology also known as atmospheric water generators. These systems generate water that is 100% free of chlorine, fluoride, lead, recycled water, effluent and other toxic wastes. Most filtration systems remove all trace minerals from the water, thereby producing clean water. However there are systems that are specifically designed to retain the beneficial minerals that keep you healthy whilst removing impurities. So not only does an atmospheric water generator eliminate the need for plastic bottle the water generated with these dispensers costs in the neighborhood of 6 cents per gallon. http://www.koniafl.com
7"writer/researcher on heal"
at Sunday, 06 May 2012 17:27
Hundreds of our foods, juices, bottled waters and teas and wines have significant doses of fluoride in them (2004 USDA web says) that were not there 30 yeas ago when most pro-fluoridation studies were done. 41% of kids today are overdosed as are adults with many symptoms. No study exists that proves hydrofluorosilicic acid is safe or effective and no supplier can provide proof.
How blind can the US be? Only 5% of world fluoridates.
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