Water, water everywhere ... but do you dare take a drink?

Feb 28 2011 - 4:14pm


You know me. Never one to incite panic.

However, I do feel the need to offer readers the following mildly disconcerting warning ...


Who knew? Turns out, officials have been adding something called "fluoride" to the county's water supply.

Now, near as anyone can tell, fluoride is a chemical compound whose primary purpose -- when added to a municipality's drinking water -- is to enrage a small but incredibly vocal group of activists with really bad teeth.

Naw, just kidding. Most of these activists have perfectly nice smiles. Not that you get to see those smiles all that often whenever the topic of fluoridated water comes up.

Basically, the debate goes like this: Somebody noticed that in places where there was more naturally occurring fluoride in the drinking water, people had fewer cavities than those in areas with less fluoride. So the thinking was, let's add a little fluoride to the water supply, and our children's teeth will be that much healthier for it.

But then along came the anti-fluoridation people, who claimed that adding fluoride to drinking water can cause other significant problems. Thyroid disease. Various cancers. Something called fluorosis. Socialism.

Yes, back in the 1950s some of the more prominent anti-fluoride crusaders were suggesting that fluoridation was actually a communist plot -- like Obamacare, soccer and the New Coke. Which, let's face it, didn't exactly make these folks look all that rational. And they've been fighting that image problem ever since.

But we've had a spate of stories in the Standard-Examiner in the last month or so that are beginning to make me rethink the whole issue. I mean, maybe these anti-fluoride nuts aren't so nutty after all.

It started back on Jan. 8, with a story by intrepid S-E reporter Loretta Park under the headline "Feds: Reduce fluoride use." Apparently, the federal government has lowered the recommended levels of fluoride in drinking water, presumably because higher doses could cause problems.

Three days later, along came a story by equally intrepid S-E reporter Bryon Saxton, headlined "Fluoride a danger to infants?" A group called Waterwatch of Utah is asking officials in Davis and Salt Lake counties to at the very least warn parents about overexposing their infants and young children to fluoridated tap water. This seems like a fairly reasonable request, seeing as how similar warnings were issued by federal health organizations several years ago.

But the final straw came last week, with another Bryon Saxton story, "What's in their fluoride? Davis commissioners want to know."

According to that article, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings sent a request to fluoride suppliers, asking them to provide a list of the chemicals that are in the county's fluoride mix. Again, a seemingly reasonable request.

Well, two of the companies contacted him and refused to reveal the chemical ingredients in their fluoride, while three other suppliers failed to respond at all.

Odds are, the fluoride mix these companies are selling doesn't have trace amounts of arsenic. Or mercury. Or asbestos or lead or even radioactive rat feces. But then again, it might. Really, who knows? Since these companies seem unwilling to provide an ingredients list, one can only speculate.

Heck, people, I can see exactly what's in my Cap'n Crunch, cereal, Kroger fish sticks and Little Debbie snack cakes, just by looking on the side of the box. Shouldn't my county know exactly what's in the water additives it's buying from fluoride suppliers?

But perhaps the most damning evidence to date in the fluoride debate? That came last week, when the Davis County Health Director assured everyone that the county's drinking water is safe.

Look, I'm not saying the drinking water in Davis County isn't safe, because there's a very good chance that it almost certainly probably is. But what I am saying is that the Davis County Health Director says it's safe. And if there's one thing I've learned in nearly three decades of professional journalism, it's that when a government official comes out and insists something is safe -- especially something that we had all just assumed was safe anyway -- that's generally cause for concern.

So then, what to do about this whole fluoridation mess? Well, my recommendation to the good people of Davis County is to immediately stop drinking tap water until officials can get it all sorted out.

Or at least until I've made a killing off my newly acquired Aquafina and Dasani stock.

Access Mark Saal's dental records at 801-625-4272 or msaal@standard.net.

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