The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

U.S. Catches Up with Science On Fluoride in Drinking Water

Obama Administration Calls for Lower Limits


Since 2005, Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been pushing the federal government
and municipal water utilities to reduce the levels of fluoride in
drinking water to protect children from tooth enamel damage ("dental
fluorosis") and other potential health problems. Today those concerns
have been heard. The nation's top health official, Health and Human
Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced plans to lower the
agency's maximum recommended fluoride level from 1.2 milligrams per
liter of water to 0.7.

"We've had to wait too long, but the government's announcement marks a
belated recognition that many American children are at risk from excess
fluoride in drinking water and other sources," said Jane Houlihan,
EWG's senior vice president for research. "Since 2005, EWG has been
calling on federal agencies to respond to these findings, which come
from National Academy of Sciences and many others, documenting that
excess fluoride exposure poses dangers that range from discolored teeth
to potential hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. HHS has taken an
important first step. Now it's up to water utilities to respond and for
the EPA to lower its too-high legal limit on fluoride in drinking water,
which is more than five times the new maximum being recommended by the
Department of Health and Human Services."

Fluoride has been added to community drinking water supplies since
the 1940s to help prevent tooth decay. According to the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control, about 184 million Americans - nearly 70 percent of the
population - currently drink fluoridated water. Over-exposure to
fluoride can be toxic, causing dental fluorosis (mottling and loss of
tooth enamel) and skeletal fluorosis (joint pain, stiffness and bone
fractures). Some studies point to a possible link between fluoride
exposure and osteosarcoma (bone cancer), neurotoxicity and disruption
of thyroid function. Read more about fluoride and EWG's work on the
issue here:

In 2007, the Municipal Water District of Los Angeles considered increasing the levels of fluoride in its drinking water. EWG pushed back and the utility reversed itself.

"The government is changing its mind after operating for decades
under the assumption that the old recommended limit for fluoride in tap
water was perfectly safe," Houlihan added. "This decision is another
signal to the public to take care when it comes to exposures to
industrial chemicals; what is considered safe today won't necessarily be
thought safe tomorrow. New science usually reveals new risks and drives
more protective standards, as we've seen today with the government's
fluoride announcement."

NOTE: Jane Houlihan and others at EWG are available to speak with the media at any time. 202.667.6982

The Environmental Working Group is a community 30 million strong, working to protect our environmental health by changing industry standards.

(202) 667-6982