The good folks - Mary Tiemann this time - at the Congressional Research Service have struck again with this timely report.
It's timely in Oregon because next month, Portland will vote to decide whether or not to proceed with its plan to fluoridate its drinking water. It is the largest city in the USA without a fluoridated supply. The Oregonian is full of letters to the editor on the issue these days.
Download the report PDF below and read the summary below that.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010, 73.9% of the people in the United States who receive their water from a public water system received fluoridated water (roughly 204.3 million people). One of CDC’s national health goals is to increase the proportion of the U.S. population served by community water systems with “optimally” fluoridated drinking water to 79.6% by 2020. The decision to add fluoride to a water supply is made by local or state governments. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had long recommended an optimal fluoridation level in the range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) to prevent tooth decay.
The fluoridation of drinking water often generates both strong support and opposition within communities. This practice is controversial because fluoride has been found to have beneficial effects at low levels and is intentionally added to many public water supplies; however, at higher concentrations, it is known to have toxic effects. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the amount of fluoride that may be present in public water supplies to protect against fluoride’s adverse health effects. Fluoridation opponents have expressed concern regarding potential adverse health effects of fluoride ingestion, and some view the practice as an unjustified infringement on individual freedom. The medical and public health communities generally have recommended water fluoridation, citing it as a safe, effective, and equitable way to provide dental health protection community-wide.
Because the use of fluoridated dental products and the consumption of food and beverages made with fluoridated water have increased since HHS recommended optimal levels for fluoridation, many people now may be exposed to more fluoride than had been anticipated. Consequently, questions have emerged as to whether current water fluoridation practices and levels offer the most appropriate ways to provide the expected beneficial effects of fluoride while avoiding adverse effects (most commonly, tooth mottling or pitting—dental fluorosis) that may result from ingestion of too much fluoride when teeth are developing. Also, scientific uncertainty regarding the health effects of exposure to higher levels of fluoride adds controversy to decisions regarding water fluoridation. In 2011, HHS proposed to reduce the recommended level to 0.7 mg/L.
Although fluoride is added to water to strengthen teeth, some communities must treat their water to remove excess amounts of fluoride that is present either naturally or from pollution. In 1986, EPA issued a drinking water regulation for fluoride that includes an enforceable standard—a maximum contaminant level (MCL)—and an MCL goal (MCLG) of 4 mg/L to protect against adverse effects on bone structure. EPA acknowledged that the standard did not protect infants and young children against dental fluorosis, which EPA considered a cosmetic effect rather than a health effect. To address this concern, EPA included in the regulation a secondary (advisory) standard of 2 mg/L to protect children against dental fluorosis and adverse health effects. As part of its current review of the fluoride regulation, EPA asked the National Research Council (NRC) to review the health risk data for fluoride and to assess the adequacy of EPA’s standards. In March 2006, NRC released its study and concluded that EPA’s 4 mg/L MCLG should be lowered.
In 2011, EPA released new risk and exposure assessments for fluoride. The agency announced its intent to use this science and additional research to review the primary and secondary drinking water standards for fluoride and to determine whether to revise them. To make a regulatory determination, EPA also must consider analytical methods for testing for fluoride at lower concentrations, treatment feasibility (including cost), occurrence, and exposure.
I had better get my long overdue review of The Fluoride Wars posted!
Thanks to Jan Schoonmaker for sending this information my way.
Writer extraordinaire John Fleck provides the foreword, 'Hope for the American West':
In the often dry, easily forgotten arroyo that is the Santa Fe River on the western edge of Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is reason for hope.
Santa Fe, one of the oldest non-Indian communities in the United States, could be a poster child for the depressing reality of climate change. Temperatures over the last two years have been higher, and precipitation lower, than at any time in recorded history. Its water supply - part mountain runoff, part pumped groundwater, and part imported Colorado River Basin water - is tenuous. The mountain watersheds from which much of its water comes faced the real risk of catastrophic fire. The Santa Fe River looked more like a dry gully.
A core problem in the politics and policy of climate change and the related problems of societal resiliency and sustainability is the problem of “over there”. If the risks to polar bears as Arctic ice melts or the poor of the slums of Bangladesh as sea levels rise are the problem’s salient features, the call to global action becomes the primary response. But while the need to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions has global elements, the need to adapt to a changing climate, and to bring resources supply and demand into balance, is at its heart a problem of local communities. It is easy to become lost in the global picture and feel a sense of hopelessness.
Even at a regional level, there is a temptation to look at the long term supply and demand forecasts for the Colorado River Basin, the enfeebled riparian ecosystems along the region’s rivers, or the watersheds vulnerable to the next dry spring followed by a summer lightning strike, and feel helpless.
But across the West, there is reason for hope. This report documents the work of ten communities that aren’t waiting for global solutions. They have seized the initiative, acting now to build resilience to help them cope with a changing future. Their work offers hope, along with practical models for other communities who want to act on that hope.
The stretch of Santa Fe River is a small thing. In a city strapped for water, deciding to put a slug of water left to recreate a flowing river might seem like one luxury too many. But if you can conserve some water to support a community value, is that not the first step toward building the resilience to cope with the big problems to come?
Kimery Wiltshire, Carpe Diem West's CEO and Director, takes over with an introduction.
Across the American West, water managers and communities are hungry for solutions and perhaps more for inspiration. As the climate warms and weather extremes become undeniable, having a secure supply of clean and abundant water — for our communities, our economy, our environment and our farms — is becoming a huge challenge.
Carpe Diem West’s new report — New Visions, Smart Choices - Western Water Security in a Changing Climate — spotlights successful, sustainable and economically sensible steps ten communities are taking to make sure they will have water in the decades to come.
Some of these communities are linking healthy farm practices with the health of the local water supply. Others are leaders in urban water conservation. Some are harnessing the power of nature to protect and treat water their supplies, while others are protecting the forests that are the source of their water from catastrophic wildfires.
All of these stories have common themes: the community recognized that they were facing a crisis; many people started working together; using the best science available they came up with solutions that made sense for their communities; they looked at ways they could also protect the natural environment; and they put their plans into action.
The results have generated significant savings in both water and dollars, and in flowing rivers. San Antonio has realized savings of $84 million in seven years from their conservation programs. Communities along the Yampa River in Colorado saved their local fishing and recreation businesses - and the river that the local economy depends on. In Oregon, one utility saved $150 million by restoring a river and creating partnerships with local farmers instead of building new water treatment facility.
The stories of these ten communities — and many other examples around the West — all tell us this: yes, climate change is overwhelming and scares the hell out of us, and yes, we can do things now to build a more secure future.
As you read these stories, we invite you to consider choices that your community could take. Choices and actions that will means that our children and theirs will have what we enjoy now - clean, abundant water and healthy rivers and forests.
Two excellent reads! Enjoy!
“Vodka, that’s what they drink . . . on no account will a Commie ever drink water, and not without good reason . . . Have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure-grain alcohol? Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation of water? Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?” - General Jack D. Ripper, from Dr. Strangelove