Fluorine, the first of the halogens, of which some are so terrified, is naturally found in life as fluoride. For example, it is found in tea, and more so in green tea, widely praised for its dental and general health benefits. There have been no indications that this has harmed anyone over many cuppas and years of tea drinking.
Neither is there any solid science against fluoride’s use, even in hot non-stick frypans. To the contrary, there is convincing proof that it helps teeth, to the point where most people now die with their own teeth, or some of them, and at 75, instead of at 45 without any, as in the 1800s. Many people brought up with fluoride since the 50s have perfect teeth. This is much better.
Fluoride was first introduced into drinking water in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the 1940s. Other US states rapidly followed without hesitation or any apparent ill-effects since, and considerable benefits. Did I mention that it also helps stop osteoporosis by toughening bones?
Fervent opposition to fluoridation came from the ultra-right-wing John Birch Society, which maintained that it was a filthy Communist mind-control plot, admirably satirised in Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove; designed to interfere with ‘precious bodily fluids’, fluoridation gave valid grounds for the total destruction of the world. (Not a good starting point for a protest.)
Conspiracy theories about waste aluminium by-products and the sugar industry abound, but given there is no firm evidence of fluoride doing any harm, the remaining objections are based on individual freedom, etc. But there is an insidious side to these objections.
Those who would most benefit from fluoridation – the poor, the ignorant, the disadvantaged, and more particularly their children – are those most unlikely to seek or receive regular dental care, or obtain personal fluoride tablets from whichever public authority is handing them out, or remember to use them. Or to be a ‘stakeholder’ and campaign for fluoridation. And most people with money, wholly illogically, prefer bottled water, so would not drink fluoridated water if we had it in any event. (What on Earth are they on about, and why, one asks.)
Those who seek to deny the less-well-off this distinctly successful and comparatively cheap public health measure (certainly when compared with desperate operations on babies) are like American Republicans arguing that making the rich pay less in taxes is good for everyone.
Refusing to participate in fluoridation (or the iodisation of salt, or chlorination of water, all of which use halogens, to the benefit of all – for instance, no-one gets cholera any more) causes social injustice and does active harm to the disenfranchised. Those without have to do without, as usual, when this should not be.
Fluoridation has clear health benefits for the vast majority of the population, and no real downside. We are a democracy, and a 50.01 per cent ‘mandate’ is enough to justify governments taking irrevocable steps into the relative unknown. The whims of the privileged few should not be allowed to prevail where the benefits are so clear.
Richard Moloney, Mullumbimby