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Drinking Water and Fluoride

2008 May 29

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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Among my duties as Hispanic liaison, I often conduct interviews in Spanish language media. Recently, I got a call from my cousin Lizette in Puerto Rico who had seen me on a Spanish TV morning show addressing the debate over tap water vs. bottled water. EPA sets the national standards for contaminants in drinking water and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the standards for bottled water based on EPA standards.

While talking to my cousin, I mentioned—“luckily in the U.S. we have one of the safest supplies of drinking water in the world.” She was quick to remind me—“yes, but in Puerto Rico we have many water challenges. As a Puerto Rican working at EPA you should do more to create awareness of our drinking water which is not in compliance with national standards,” she admonished. She also pointed out that since Hurricane Hugo back in 1989 many people opted for bottled water because “our tap water simply doesn’t taste right.”

I admit that the Island has many water challenges. Nonetheless, I recall the poor conditions and foul smell of the Condado Lagoon at the heart of the tourist section back in the 60’s—a situation which has dramatically improved thanks to the work of EPA in Puerto Rico—just to name one of the Agency’s contributions to the Island’s health and environment.

During our phone call, my cousin mentioned another issue: the lack of fluoridation in the Island’s drinking water. “That’s why so many people on the Island have dental problems.” Given that her brother, my cousin, is a dentist, she had some evidence. Frankly, I had to do some research myself.

I found out that the decision to fluoridate drinking water in Puerto Rico or any other U.S. jurisdiction is a state and local decision. Our role is limited to ensuring that the concentration of fluoride in drinking water from natural or introduced sources does not exceed 4 mg/L. I found out that in 1998, Puerto Rico adopted a law to add fluoride to the water largely at the behest of the state dental association in order to promote dental health. Although the law might be on the books, currently the local utilities are not adding fluoride.

Even though I am not in a position to comment on the fluoride debate, I will urge consumers to learn more about their drinking water and to get involved! (PDF, 36 pages, 2.8 MB).

Agua potable y el fluoruro

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Entre mis responsabilidades como enlace hispana de EPA, frecuentemente hablo con medios hispanos. Recientemente, recibí una llamada de mi prima Lizette en Puerto Rico quien me había visto en un programa matutino de televisión hablando sobre el debate del agua del grifo y el agua embotellada. EPA establece los estándares nacionales para los contaminantes en el agua potable y la Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos establece los estándares para el agua embotellada basada en los estándares de EPA.

Hablando con mi prima mencioné—“afortunadamente en EE.UU. tenemos uno de los suministros de agua potable más seguros del mundo”. Ella me indicó rápidamente—“Sí, pero en Puerto Rico tenemos muchos problemas de agua. Como puertorriqueña trabajando en EPA debes hacer más para crear conciencia sobre nuestra agua potable que no está en cumplimiento con los estándares nacionales”, amonestó. También señaló que desde el huracán Hugo en 1989 muchas personas han optado por tomar agua embotellada porque “el agua del grifo simplemente tiene mal sabor”.

Admito que la Isla tiene muchos desafíos de agua. No obstante, recuerdo las condiciones pésimas y el mal olor que emanaba de la laguna del Condado al seno del centro turístico de la Isla en los años 60—una situación que ha mejorado dramáticamente gracias a la labor de EPA en Puerto Rico—sólo un ejemplo de las muchas contribuciones de la Agencia a la salud y medio ambiente de la Isla.

Durante nuestra conversación telefónica, mi prima mencionó otro tema: la falta de fluoruración en el agua potable de Puerto Rico. “Por eso tanta gente tiene problemas dentales”. Dado a que su hermano, mi primo, es dentista, ella tiene alguna evidencia. Francamente, tuve que investigar el tema.

Encontré que la decisión de añadir fluoruro al agua potable en Puerto Rico o cualquier otra jurisdicción bajo la bandera americana recae en el estado y la localidad. Sin embargo, nuestro rol es limitado al asegurar que la concentración del fluoruro en el agua potable de fuentes potables o introducidas no debe exceder 4 mg/L. Encontré que en 1998, Puerto Rico adoptó una ley para añadir fluoruro al agua potable mayormente por el cabildeo del Colegio de Cirujanos Dentistas de Puerto Rico. Sin embargo, en la actualidad los servicios de agua en la Isla no están administrando el fluoruro.

A pesar de que no estoy en posición para debatir sobre el fluoruro, insto a los consumidores a aprender más sobre el agua potable y cómo involucrarse (PDF 36 pp, 1.7 MB).

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

63 Responses leave one →
  1. Dentist San Juan Capistrano permalink
    July 11, 2011

    I used to work for a water filtration company. I saw first hand what was in the water and did analysis every month. You would be quite shocked.

  2. Naples Dentist permalink
    August 14, 2011

    Thanks, for discussing. It is so much benifited for me. I get much information about your discussion. I thing it is very important for us.

  3. what is distilled water permalink
    August 23, 2011

    This is a great post. You explained in details the subject “Fluoride in water” and what it can do for our teeth and health.

  4. nelson brown permalink
    February 13, 2013

    In developing countries Fluoride water is biggest problem and it directly affect to teeth.
    thanks to make this page so important highlight on hidden truth.
    working as a dentist in brampton i am glad to read this.
    thanks again for this post.

  5. amit goswami permalink
    June 20, 2013

    can you explain which chemical is good for health dissolve in water. how much quantity is limit for daily use in drinking water.

  6. Elvin J. permalink
    October 23, 2013

    As a citizen of Puerto Rico, im extremeley glad that the flouride is not added to the water.
    In my research of water treatment i’ve found out that flouride is a toxic by-product of the fertilizer industry. Nations like china are the main exporters of this waste, and they dont put it on their water because of the damage it does to their people. It is just a terrible practice of this manufacturers to avoid waste management cost by dumping this poison on our drinking water. This does not only affect the thyroid but also the IQ in the long run. Look for this movie in you tube, The great Culling and get informed.

  7. Maria Moore permalink
    November 7, 2013

    If you wish to find a dentist that you can afford, try a few different places first. When you’re not insured, you may find that going to a school where people train in becoming a dentist can be very affordable. Never neglect your teeth for a long time and make it a point to go to the dentist twice a year at least.

  8. henrypatterson permalink
    February 14, 2014

    Well, I’ve been searching for a better view of the topic I’ve been sharing with my friends and blog readers for days, but here I’ve found it. Your view was more practical than what I’ve read before, so it was worthy enough for our future discussions with my colleagues. Keep it up!

  9. Christine permalink
    March 18, 2014

    IAOMT vs. Canadian Fluoridating Municipalities:

    The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology calculated the minimum risk level for fluoride concentration to be 0.0001ppm.

    Peel Region (and many other Canadian municipalities that fluoridate their tap water) aim for 0.5 – 0.8ppm (5000 – 8000 times higher, plus overfeeds occur).

    In their 2003 Policy Position on Ingested Fluoride and Fluoridation, IAOMT stated that infants less than 6 months of age with a body weight of 7 kg receiving formula mixed with 1 ppm tap water would ingest 250 to 500 times more fluoride than if breast fed.

    They also said that “Ingested fluoride is hereby recognized as unsafe, and ineffective for the purposes of reducing tooth decay…” and that ZERO is the only acceptable public health goal “for systemic exposure level to this common xenobiotic”.

  10. INVISALIGN IN KATY TX permalink
    March 21, 2014

    To prevent dehydration water is very much necessary for human being. But it need to sure before using water for drinking or bath or cooking purpose that it is pure & clean to prevent diseases.

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