June 15, 2012
In a letter to California senator Barbara Boxer the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director Thomas Frieden responded to questions about fluoride and infants. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1997 set the adequate amount of fluoride for infants 0 to 6 months of age at .01 milligrams per day, which is the amount of fluoride found in breast milk. The CDC was asked if more fluoride than the adequate amount was beneficial. CDC director Frieden wrote “We are unaware of data that directly answers your questions about the additional protection from tooth decay that could result from greater daily fluoride intake by infants, 0-6 months of age.” In other words, there is no scientific evidence that dosing babies with lots of fluoride has any benefit at all.
When powdered infant formula is prepared with fluoridated tap water infants get a very large dose of fluoride, and it can exceed the “tolerable upper intake level” of .7 milligrams per day set by the IOM in 1997. When asked what adverse health effects could occur when infants exceed the “tolerable upper intake level” director Frieden responded that the level was set to minimize the risk of moderate and severe dental fluorosis – a developmental disturbance in children. Fluorosis means discolored malformed teeth, which can be stained brown or black. Other adverse health effects of inadvertently dosing babies with heavy doses of fluoride are not considered important by government agencies.
What should be recommended but isn’t because fluoridation might look bad
Health care providers should recommend the use of non-fluoridated water to prepare powdered infant formula. But that recommendation is seldom made in the U.S. In 2006 the CDC and American Dental Association (ADA) finally admitted what dental research studies had been saying for many years – that infant formula prepared with fluoridated water increased the risk of fluorosis. But they were reluctant to actually inform parents about this risk to infants because it cast doubt on water fluoridation. They were afraid that people would stop drinking fluoridated water and oppose effort to start fluoridation in their communities. So in 2006 the only thing the CDC and ADA did was publish web pages about the risk and since then the ADA has opposed further efforts to inform parents.
The PEW children’s dental campaign is pushing for more fluoridation, but they don’t want parents to know about the fluorosis risk from infant formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics should have informed their members about this risk, but never did. Infant formula manufacturers have refused to put this information on their packaging labels. Most WIC programs refuse to inform parents about the risk from the free powdered infant formula they provide.
Science cooked up to save fluoridation’s image
Last year in a scientific document theADAreversed their 2006 position and said that fluoridated water could be recommended for infant formula preparation. There was no explanation for this recommendation, which increases fluorosis risk for no benefit. It seemed to be science generated purely to draw attention away from the facts and to justify keeping parents ignorant of the risk.
Although large wealthy organizations hope people never learn about this risk to babies, some people think parents should be informed. The New Hampshire Assembly passed a bill that would require a fluorosis advisory about infant formula to appear on water bills, but the bill was modified by the state senate to only have the advisory printed on seldom read annual water quality reports.
Fluorosis is an increasingly common developmental disturbance that affects infants. However, the reputation of water fluoridation has been deemed more important than the health of infants.
Sources for this article include:
Letter sent to senator Barbara Boxer:http://dougcragoe.webs.com/apps/documents/
CDC web page on infant formula and fluorosis:http://www.cdc.gov/FLUORIDATION/safety/infant_formula.htm
ADA study that says fluoridated water can be recommended for infant formula:http://jada.ada.org/content/142/1/79.full
Fluoride Action Network page on fluoride warnings for infants:http://www.fluoridealert.org/health/infant/
About the author:
Doug Cragoe is an activist concerned with the increasing level of fluoride exposure in the United States.