Public water systems in the United States have been adding fluoride to their water since the 1940s as a way to prevent tooth decay. The consensus among public health officials and scientists is that the practice has been incredibly effective. The only documented side effect is a rise in fluorosis, a condition in which cumulative overexposure to fluoride interferes with the development of tooth enamel. It is typically cosmetic.
That's never stopped a small but persistent fringe from decrying fluoridation as a threat to public health, if not a government conspiracy, and calling for an end to its use. In North Texas, the cause has been taken up by a group called Fluoride Action North Texas which last night had the ear of the McKinney City Council.
"We don't ever drink tap water if we can avoid it," FANT founder Pam Wenzel, who also happens to market and sell "Spa Water" products, told NBC 5. "The additional fluoride is not a natural occurring fluoride. It is a chemical that comes from chemical plants."
True enough, but a bit of a straw man. A chemical's the same whether it originates in nature or in a lab, and one needn't walk far down a supermarket aisle to find foods that are packed with chemicals from chemical plants.
Last night's debate was precipitated by Councilman Ray Ricchi, who introduced a resolution calling for an end to the fluoridation of the city's water supply. That would be more complicated than it sounds, because the city is served by the North Texas Municipal Water District, which also happens to serve 1.5 million or so people who don't live in McKinney, and the matter was tabled until next month.
McKinney is just the first salvo in FANT's fight against fluoride. On the group's Facebook page, Wenzel promises to push each of NTMWD's 44 member cities to vote against fluoridation. So, more to come.