It does no harm for Kansans to renew the debate about the use of fluoride in water; in fact it can be productive. But such a debate would be more helpful if the information used advances the discussion instead of clouding it, as seems to be happening.
Steve Brunk, a Wichita Republican, has introduced legislation that would require Kansas cities and towns that fluoridate their water to make sure citizens know that, as Rep. Brunk puts it, “the latest science confirms that ingested fluoride lowers the IQ in children.”
Rep. Brunk’s “latest science” involves a 2012 Harvard study that found a connection between slower brain development and increased levels of fluoride in water. What Rep. Brunk doesn’t say, however, is that the research involved children in China, whose water has high natural concentrations of fluoride. Water in the United States, even in communities that add fluoride to their water, does not.
Helping Rep. Brunk draft the bill was Mark Gietzen, a conservative political activist from Wichita, which rejected the most recent effort to add fluoride to its water. Mr. Gietzen is convinced that eliminating fluoride from water in the United States can save more lives than banning abortion, and he has called his struggle against fluoride “the most pro-life work I’ve ever done.”
Unfortunately, his and Rep. Brunk’s efforts to eliminate fluoride from water would hurt Kansans, not help them.
There’s a good reason about three-fourths of American cities and towns, including Manhattan, add a tiny amount of fluoride to the water. It helps prevent tooth decay, particularly in children; in fact, dental health advocates believe fluoride’s benefits in fighting tooth decay are considerable.
Kevin Richardson, executive director of the Kansas Dental Association, puts opponents of fluoridated water into two groups: those who believe that fluoride is “an industrial chemical that causes every type of cancer or ailment” and those who believe it “is used by government as a mind-control agent.”
Paul Finney, a Humbolt acupuncturist who opposes fluoridation, 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.”
We certainly hope Kansas lawmakers read the science if they seriously consider halting fluoridation. We also hope they tap the expertise of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Says the CDC: “Community water fluoridation has been a safe and healthy way to effectively prevent tooth decay. CDC has recognized water fluoridation as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”