An Inclusive Litany

6/30/03

Writing in the National Review, Jay Nordlinger reports on the resurgence of efforts against the fluoridation of water. Often thought of as a defining characteristic of fringe right-wing groups such as the John Birch Society, opposition to fluoridation has increasingly taken hold among leftist environmentalists.

The founding members of the Fluoride Action Network—a clearinghouse for anti-fluoride efforts—include the founder of Friends of the Earth, the editor of Coyote Nation, the publisher of The Ecologist, the co-founders of GreenWatch, and even a past president of the Secular Franciscan Order. Anti-fluoridation articles have appeared in magazines such as The Progressive and CovertAction Quarterly, the latter of which identified fluoridation as a capitalist plot. The Berkeley-based Environmental News Network has served as a hub of anti-fluoride activity. The National Resources Defense Council is also against it, along with many Sierra Club chapters.

These groups argue that fluoride is a pollutant, that there is currently too much of it in various food products, that fluoride is superfluous in fighting cavities (given that people practice good hygiene and a adopt a good diet), and that it is an undemocratic assault on individual preferences. While some have no objection to the presence of fluoride in toothpaste, others blame fluoridation for cancer, brittle bones, Alzheimer's disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and hypothyroidism, with leads to weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Supporters of fluoridation include the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control, and the office of Surgeon General. They argue that adding fluoride to drinking water is safe in small amounts, and yields substantial benefits in dental health.

Efforts to discontinue or prevent fluoridation have been successful in both Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, California; Ithaca, New York; Worcester, Massachusetts; and much of the Pacific Northwest. An anti-fluoridation referendum is to be voted on in Palo Alto, California.

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