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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Health

Jonathan Serrie

Atlanta, GA

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Fluoride: A Good Thing in Moderation?

January 7, 2011 - 11:49 AM | by: Jonathan Serrie

Changes are on tap for what goes into public drinking water.

Federal health officials are considering a reduction in the recommended level of fluoride. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency made the announcement today in response to recent studies suggesting that fluoride is causing spotting on the teeth of increasing numbers of children.

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 through 2004 found that 41 percent of children ages 12 through 15 had the tooth spotting condition known as fluorosis. That’s up 18 points from a similar study conducted in 1986 and 1987.

According to dentists, most cases of fluorosis in the U.S. are mild and barely visible. Nevertheless, federal health officials are taking the increase in cases seriously as they attempt to strike a balance between fluoride’s cavity-prevention properties and its potential to cause even minor tooth damage.

HHS is proposing a recommendation of 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of drinking water. This would replace the current system which sets an optimal range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter.

Meanwhile, the EPA is initiating a review of what should be the maximum amount of fluoride allowed in drinking water.

“EPA’s new analysis will help us make sure that people benefit from tooth decay prevention while at the same time avoiding the unwanted health effects from too much fluoride,” Peter Silva, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, said in a press release.

First introduced in the 1940s, “optimally fluoridated water” is available to more than 195 million Americans, according to 2008 figures from the CDC.

Federal health officials credit fluoride in drinking water and toothpaste as playing a significant role in the widespread reduction of tooth decay in the U.S. over recent decades. The CDC considers water fluoridation “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”

New guidelines under consideration suggest fluoride is still a good thing… with moderation.

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