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Would you put Sunscreen in your Drinking Water?

The debate over municipal water fluoridation will enjoy its next major public appearance in the city of Portland, Oregon, where last fall the City Council approved a plan to fluoridate the city's water by 2014, and not long thereafter, Clean Water Portland accumulated enough signatures to place the issue on the public ballot in May of 2014. 

While big city discussions occupy a position of prominence in the news, small towns are more quietly taking up the debate, with citizens, professionals and journalists weighing in on the questions of efficacy and safety. One such area is the town of Bradford, Vermont, following the lead of other Vermont cities in stopping fluoridation, largely in response to the 2006 National Research Council determination that "safe" levels of fluoride may not be so safe after all. When the local paper defended fluoridation, Paul Connett, director of the Fluoride Action Network, and a former local reader of the paper, wrote a concise op-ed with the bottom line argument: 35 studies have found an association between modest exposure to fluoride and lowered IQ in children. Eeks, not a good "side effect", is it?

Meanwhile, when fluoride does provide a benefit to your teeth, the effect is topical (like sunscreen!) not systemic. In otherwords, some benefit might be derived from the water passing by your teeth, not from what is ingested into your whole system. For topical efficacy, it's obvious that toothpaste is a more effective means of application, allowing for individual choice and dosing.


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