Bhatnagar: Phoenix continuing water fluoridation makes sense - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

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Bhatnagar: Phoenix continuing water fluoridation makes sense

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Rush Bhatnagar

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Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 12:49 pm

On Sept. 11, the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee of the Phoenix City Council decided to continue the practice of fluoridating the city’s water after two hours of testimony from pro- and anti-fluoridation advocates. The city of Phoenix has been fluoridating the water supply since 1989.

The first city to fluoridate its water was Grand Rapids, Mich. in 1945. The 15-year project researched the tooth decay rate of approximately 30,000 schoolchildren in Grand Rapids. After 11 years of community exposure to the water, the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) reported a 60 percent decrease in tooth decay rate among the schoolchildren. The National Institute of Dental and Cranial Research (NIDCR) states that this study, “amounted to a giant scientific breakthrough that promised to revolutionize dental care, making tooth decay for the first time in history a preventable disease for most people.”

Since the Grand Rapids study, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that two-thirds of the United States population currently receives fluoride through their community water system calling it “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”

The fluoride debate in Phoenix began when a Phoenix resident questioned the safety of fluoride in the community water. Opponents of the measure question if fluoridation is a forced medication, question the health risk to the thyroid and brain development, and question the irreversible tooth discoloration (fluorosis). Within 2012, three major cities have debated water fluoridation including Phoenix, Portland, Ore., and Milwaukee Wis., with similar concerns. Last year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed lowering the recommended fluoride level in drinking water to reduce incidence of fluorosis in children after 50 years of having it in use.

The debate on water fluoridation may continue throughout the country, and both pro-and anti-fluoridation advocates will continue to be heard. In the meantime, Phoenix will continue to fluoridate the drinking water at 0.7 parts per million for the city’s 1.4 million residence.

• Ahwatukee Foothills’ Dr. Rashmi (Rush) Bhatnagar, DMD, MPH, can be contacted at (480) 598-5900 or visit

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