Sign up to receive email updates, action alerts & health tips from EWG. [Privacy]

Plan to Add Fluoride to Southern California Tap Water will put 64,000 Kids at Risk

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, August 20, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 20 - More than 64,000 children a day in Southern California will be exposed to an unsafe dose of fluoride when the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) begins adding fluoride to drinking water in October, according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The water district’s plan to add fluoride to the water it supplies to 18 million customers in most of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, and parts of San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties will put 14.5 percent of children under 1 year old, and 12.5 percent of children 1 to 2 years old, over the recommended fluoride exposure limits published by the National Academy of Sciences' (NAS's) Institute of Medicine and endorsed by the American Dental Association. In Los Angeles County alone, more than 40,000 children age 2 and under will exceed the safe dose.

The full report is available at www.ewg.org. It will be formally released at 10:30 a.m. today at a news conference at the New Otani Hotel, 120 S. Los Angeles Street in downtown LA.

EWG’s study is being released the same day as Metropolitan Water District board members will be briefed on developments in fluoride science since their 2003 decision. Dr. Kathleen Thiessen, an author of the National Research Council fluoride study, will discuss her panel’s findings. The briefing is at noon at MWD headquarters, 700 N. Alameda Street, next to Union Station.

EWG used dietary information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and tap water fluoride data from the Centers for Disease Control to model total fluoride exposures from tap water, food and toothpaste for children age 2 and under. It is a conservative estimate because it only counts children in the three largest counties served by MWD, and because some of the 26 local water agencies served by MWD already add fluoride to water after they receive it from the district.

“The value of fluoride toothpaste to dental health is clear,” said Bill Walker, EWG’s vice president for the West Coast. “But a substantial and growing body of peer-reviewed science strongly suggests that adding fluoride to tap water is not the safest way to achieve the dental health benefits of fluoridation.”

Children who drink fluoridated water are at increased risk of developing fluorosis, a defect of the permanent teeth resulting in dark staining and, in severe cases, substantial corrosion of the enamel. The CDC says that about 30 percent of children who drink fluoridated water have some degree of fluorosis.

In November 2006, the American Dental Association acknowledged for the first time the health risks of fluoride, and issued an “Interim Guidance on Fluoride Intake for Infants and Young Children.” It said that in areas where fluoride is added to tap water, if a child is being fed liquid concentrate or powdered infant formula mixed with water, parents should consider using fluoride-free bottled water.

But far more serious health risks have been identified since 2003, when MWD made its decision to fluoridate. Since then, concern about fluoridation, for decades dismissed as unscientific, has re-emerged as a mainstream public health debate.

  • A March 2006 report from the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council identified fluoride as a potent hormone disruptor that may affect normal thyroid function.
  • The NAS/NRC report also cited concerns about the potential of fluoride to lower IQ, noting that the "consistency of study results appears significant enough to warrant additional research on the effects of fluoride on intelligence."
  • A 2006 peer-reviewed study by four Harvard scientists and doctors strongly supports concerns that fluoridated water is linked to osteosarcoma, a rare but often fatal form of bone cancer, in teenage boys who drank fluoridate water as children.

“Based on new evidence of fluoride’s risks, it is both unnecessary and irresponsible for the water district to go ahead with its plan to fluoridate in October,” said Walker. “If the plan goes ahead, it is essential that the district undertake an aggressive public education plan to warn its customers of the risks.”

###

Key Issues: