Kopf ltr to NYC Health Dep't

February 28, 2011

Dear Dr. Herman (New York City Health Department)   

As a graduate of NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Graduate Program (SHERP), I am alarmed and dismayed by your non-professionalism and lack of scientific rigor in expressing your opposition to NYC Council Member Peter J. Vallone, Jr.’s legislation (Int 0463-2011) to stop water fluoridation. (your letter to Vallone dated January 19, 2001)  I expected more from an NYU Professor.

You said that you find it difficult to reconcile that Council Member Vallone honestly believes that such a “tried and true” measure as community water fluoridation is detrimental to citizens in his constituency.

You must be unaware that a National Research Council (NRC) panel of experts, at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency, reviewed current fluoride toxicology data and found that the maximum contaminant level set by the EPA is too high (4 mg/L)  to protect health, a level exceeded by some individuals via dental products, foods, drugs and water.  But in so doing, they revealed data showing that fluoride, even at low levels added to water supplies, can be detrimental to some people such as babies, thyroid and kidney patients, and high water drinkers. 

According to one of the NRC Panel Members and author of the chapter on fluoride’s endocrine effects, Kathleen Thiessen, PhD, "Many Americans are exposed to fluoride in the ranges associated with thyroid effects, especially for people with iodine deficiency...The recent decline in iodine intake in the U.S could contribute to increased toxicity of fluoride for some individuals."
In fact. NYU SHERP Director and award-winning environmental journalist, Dan Fagin, wrote a Scientific American article, entitled “Second Thoughts on Fluoride,” January 2008.
Fagin writes "Scientific attitudes toward fluoridation may be starting to shift." 

After 3 years of scrutinizing hundreds of studies, a National Research Council (NRC) committee "concluded that fluoride can subtly alter
endocrine function, especially in the thyroid - the gland that produces hormones regulating growth and metabolism," reports Fagin.

Fagin quotes John Doull, PhD, professor emeritus of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, who chaired the
NRC committee as saying "The thyroid changes do worry me."

Fagin interviewed Steven Levy, director of the Iowa Fluoride Study which tracked about 700 Iowa non-poor children for sixteen years. Nine-year-old "Iowa children who lived in communities where the water was fluoridated were 50 percent more likely to have mild fluorosis... than [nine-year-old] children living in nonfluoridated areas of the state," writes Fagin.

"(G)enetic, environmental and even cultural factors appear to leave some people much more susceptible to the effects of fluoride," writes Fagin

"What the [NRC] committee found is that we've gone with the status quo regarding fluoride ... for too long... and now we need to take a fresh look," Doull says, " In the scientific community, people tend to think that its settled... But when we looked at the studies that have been done, we find that many of these questions are unsettled and we have much less information than we should, considering how long this [fluoridation] has been going on. I think that's why fluoridation is still being challenged so many years after it began, In the face of ignorance, controversy is rampant."
More than 3,600 professionals (including 303 dentists) urge that fluoridation be stopped citing scientific evidence that ingesting fluoride is ineffective at reducing tooth decay and has serious health risks. See statement:

Eleven US EPA unions representing over 7000 environmental and public health professionals are calling for fluoridation to end.

Because of the NRC report, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Dental Association, the Mayo Clinic, the Academy of General Dentistry and other respected bodies now recommend that, if parents want to avoid dental fluorosis in their children, they must avoid feeding them infant formula made with fluoridated water. However, little effort is made to get this information to the public.

The CDC also admits that fluoride’s predominant effect is topical and not systemic.  “Fluoride works primarily after teeth have erupted…The concentration of fluoride in ductal saliva, as it is secreted from salivary glands, is low --- approximately 0.016 parts per million (ppm) in areas where drinking water is fluoridated and 0.006 ppm in nonfluoridated areas…This concentration of fluoride is not likely to affect cariogenic activity”

Further, the CDC reports that “The prevalence of dental caries in a population is not inversely related to the concentration of fluoride in enamel, and a higher concentration of enamel fluoride is not necessarily more efficacious in preventing dental caries.”

The CDC now reports that over 41% of adolescents are afflicted with fluoride overdose symptoms - dental fluorosis, 4% of it moderate/severe; but we don’t know what fluoride has done to their bones. EPA recognizes that bone damage is also a risk factor associated with over-exposure to fluoride, but no studies have been conducted to compare fluoride intake to skeletal fluorosis. The symptoms for the early stages of pre-clinical skeletal fluorosis and arthritis are identical (bone and joint pain).

Also, fluoride is linked to lowered IQ in 24 human studies. Over 100 animal studies link fluoride to brain damage.

If you want to read the most up-to-date science on fluoride, you can either read the National Research Councils 2006 report available for free online.  Also, if you truly believe in fluoridation, please read “The Case Against Fluoride,” by Connett, Micklem and Beck and describe why the science in that book should be ignored.

If you were told this science is junk science, than you’ve been lied to.

If anyone has resorted to manipulation and inflammatory rhetoric, its been the fluoridationists.

It was a tragedy that the NYC dental clinics were shut down saving the city $2.5 million and allowing the fluoridation program to continue costing about $25 million yearly.  No New York child is, or ever was, fluoride deficient but many are dentist deficient. Rotten diets make rotten teeth and no amount of fluoride will fix that –but a dentist can.

I believe all dentists must be mandated to treat more low-income NYC children instead of their water.  If dentists don’t like mandates on their own backs, why would they put fluoridation mandates on our backs.

Science clearly indicates that low-income children have more dental fluorosis and more tooth decay, despite fluoridation.

In fact, a recent study shows Low-income children who consumed recommended fluoride doses have more fluoride-damaged teeth along with very high cavity rates. (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, January 2011.

Fluoride avoidance reduced anemia in pregnant women, decreased pre-term births and enhanced babies birth-weight, concludes leading fluoride expert, AK Susheela and colleagues, in a study published in Current Science (May 2010).

State University of New York (SUNY) researchers found more premature births in fluoridated than non-fluoridated upstate New York communities, according to a presentation made at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting on November 9, 2009 in Philadelphia.

Commonly-consumed Infant fruit juices contain fluoride, some at levels higher than recommended for public water supplies which can damage teeth, according to research to be presented on March 17, 2011 at the International Association for Dental Research annual meeting in San Diego.

You mention that the Centers for Disease Control recognizes fluoridation as one of the ten greatest and effective public health innovations ever.  Then why [have] tooth decay rates gone up since that statement was made and why was the CDC’s Oral Health Division demoted to a branch no longer working for children.  It seems that statement just doesn’t hold water.  It’s just words strung together that has no scientific basis.

Council Member Vallone is a hero to NYC’s underserved and undernourished population by trying very hard to stop fluoridation because ingesting fluoride chemicals delivers health risks without benefits.


Carol S. Kopf, BS, MA

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