Dentists speak out as fluoride bill nears hearing

2/9/2014

LAWRENCE (AP) — As Kansas lawmakers prepare to discuss a bill pushed by opponents of fluoridation in public water supplies, several oral health advocates are fighting back against what they call misinformation that distorts research on the safety of fluoride.

LAWRENCE (AP) — As Kansas lawmakers prepare to discuss a bill pushed by opponents of fluoridation in public water supplies, several oral health advocates are fighting back against what they call misinformation that distorts research on the safety of fluoride.

Steve Brunk, a Wichita Republican, has introduced a measure that would require municipalities that fluoridate their water to notify citizens that "the latest science confirms that ingested fluoride lowers the IQ in children."

Oral health advocates say the benefits of fluoride in fighting tooth decay are immeasurable, and that the science on the safety of water fluoridation is settled.

A hearing before the House Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled for Feb. 19, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

"I'm doing the most pro-life work I've ever done with this fluoride fight," said Mark Gietzen, a conservative political activist who has been protesting at Wichita abortion clinics and helped draft the bill Brunk introduced.

Gietzen said he hadn't thought much about fluoride until the city of Wichita asked voters in 2012 whether it should add the chemical to its water supply. The measure was defeated, but Gietzen said he realized then that eliminating water fluoridation in America has the potential to save more lives than even outlawing abortion.

Nearly 75 percent of all Americans live in communities that add fluoride to their water, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Kansas Dental Association executive director Kevin Richardson said anti-fluoride activists fall into two categories: Those who believe it is "an industrial chemical that causes every type of cancer and ailment" or those who think "fluoride is used by government as a mind-control agent."

"Fluoride lowers the incidence of tooth decay — that's a proven fact," Richardson said. He added that the CDC has named water fluoridation as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 21st century.

The claims about lowering IQ come from a 2012 Harvard study that found a correlation between slower brain development and increased levels of fluoride in water. The research focused on children in China, which — unlike the U.S. — has a high natural occurrence of fluoride in its water.

James Otten, a Lawrence dentist, said that in 30 years in the profession he has found that patients who grew up in places with fluoridated water generally have less tooth decay than those who didn't.

"It has the most effect on developing teeth in children, as they're growing, from about age 3 to about age 12," he said. "Starting kids off with good enamel and better resistance to disease really has a profound effect on their entire lifetime."

Paul Finney, a Humbolt acupuncturist, said public health officials support water fluoridation "because they believe what they were taught in school and they don't bother to read the science."

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