Early Concerns about Water Fluoridation Ignored Resulting in a Presumption of Safety

Adding fluoride to drinking water is the sacred cow for advocates within the dental community (e.g. here). Much has been written on this topic and many articles can be found on this blog and other sites. The presumption of safety was imposed and institutionalized early on. But evidence is not neutral. The assumptions of the interpreter determine what conclusions are reached based on the evidence. The historical presumption of safety (it is safe until proven that it is not) has result the same conclusion of safety by every government or association panel evaluation of fluoridation. But evidence-based hazards and risks have been completely ignored or downplayed from the beginning of the practice. Indeed, organizations simply repeat the same song typically endorsing each others endorsement. The absence of dead bodies in the street or repetitive results from ecological studies interpreted using particular statistical tests is simply not sufficient justification for continuing the practice. But it continues nevertheless…

C Carstairs Debating Water Fluoridation Before Dr. Strangelove. American Journal of Public Health. 2015;105:1559–1569. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302660.

In the 1930s, scientists learned that small amounts of fluoride naturally occurring in water could protect teeth from decay, and the idea of artificially adding fluoride to public water supplies to achieve the same effect arose. In the 1940s and early 1950s, a number of studies were completed to determine whether fluoride could have harmful effects. The research suggested that the possibility of harm was small. In the early 1950s, Canadian and US medical, dental, and public health bodies all endorsed water fluoridation. I argue in this article that some early concerns about the toxicity of fluoride were put aside as evidence regarding the effectiveness and safety of water fluoridation mounted and as the opposition was taken over by people with little standing in the scientific, medical, and dental communities. The sense of optimism that infused postwar science and the desire of dentists to have a magic bullet that could wipe out tooth decay also affected the scientific debate. 

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