Last week a national panel of scientists commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended lowering the existing federal standard for safe amounts of fluoride in drinking water supplies. The panel, consisting of 12 experts from the National Academies’ National Research Council, cited research showing that children exposed to levels at or near the current standard of a maximum of four milligrams per liter of water can suffer severe tooth enamel damage, while adults with a sustained intake of that much fluoride can be prone to weak bones more susceptible to fracturing.
Meanwhile, dentists maintain that the health benefits of fluoridating water supplies—that is, preventing cavities—are well-known and undisputed, and that municipalities fluoridate their water supplies in much more diluted amounts than the maximum allowable standard. Only natural leaching, and possibly industrial pollution, can cause fluoride levels to reach the amount addressed by the standard.
On the basis of the panel’s recommendation, the EPA is likely to lower the maximum allowable level of fluoride in water nationwide. Just where they will set the bar, though, is anybody’s guess, as the panelists refrained from providing a target amount, simply concluding that it should “clearly be less than four.”