Public Policy l Fluoridation Facts 93 showing fluoridation to be safe and effective. An article55 that appeared in the local newspaper shortly after the first fluoridation program was implemented in Grand Rapids, Michigan, noted that the fluoridation program was slated to commence January 1, but did not actually begin until January 25. Interestingly, health officials in Grand Rapids began receiving complaints of physical ailments, including “teeth falling out and enamel peeling off their teeth,” attributed to fluoridation from citizens weeks before fluoride was actually added to the water.66 In 1992 a community in Finland opted to stop their fluoridation program at the end of the year in December. However, it was discontinued at the end of November without the public being told. Public surveys conducted in November and December and again in March the following year revealed the occurrence and mean number of symptoms (the most common being itching and dryness of skin) were fairly similar during the periods of actual and supposed fluoridation indicating the symptoms were not caused by fluoride in the water. Interestingly, those who claimed to be able to taste the fluoride in the water made this claim equally often during actual and supposed fluoridation. A significant reduction in the symptoms occurred after those responding to the surveys became aware that fluoridation had stopped. The authors concluded that the prevalence rates of the symptoms were connected to the psychological rather than the physical effects of exposure to fluoride in water.67 Over time, antifluoridation leaders and organizations have come and gone, but their basic beliefs have remained the same. These include: fluoride is toxic and causes numerous harmful health effects fluoride does not prevent tooth decay fluoridation is costly and fluoridation interferes with freedom of choice and infringes on individual rights. Opinions are seldom unanimous on any scientific subject. In fact, there really is no such thing as “final knowledge,” since new information is continuously emerging and being disseminated. As such, the benefit evidence must be continually weighed against risk evidence. Health professionals, decision makers and the public should be cooperating partners in the quest for accountability where decisions are based on proven benefits measured against verified risks.68 Dentists are a valuable source of accurate information regarding water fluoridation for both their patients and their communities. 63. What are the tactics fluoridation opponents use to provoke opposition to water fluoridation? Answer. Fluoridation opponents use numerous tactics to disseminate misinformation and raise the fears of the public about the safety of water fluoridation. Routinely, they use scare techniques,69 present half- truths, downplay the significance of science-based evidence and use selective reporting of results and studies to support their false allegations.59 Fact. While many of the arguments against fluoridation have remained relatively constant over the years, antifluoridationists have used different approaches that play upon the popular concerns of the public at the time.65 For example, in the 1950s fluoridation was said to be a Communist plot. With America’s growing concern for environmental issues in the 1960s, fluoridation was called pollution. After the Vietnam War in the 1970s, the antifluoridationists capitalized on the popularity of conspiracy theories by portraying fluoridation as a conspiracy between the U.S. government, the dental-medical establishment and industry. As the population became more concerned about their health in the 1980s, antifluoridationists claimed fluoridation caused AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease. In the 1990s, claims of hip fractures and cancer were designed to resonate with aging baby boomers. With the new millennium, overexposure and toxicity, in association with lead poisoning, surfaced as common themes. Since the economic crisis of 2008, discussions about the cost of fluoridation are more commonplace. In the 2010s, neurotoxicity became a constant theme with charges of lower IQ and autism. Over the years, none of these approaches have ever really disappeared, but instead are often recycled as antifluoridationists choose which approach will have the greatest effect on the intended audience.65 The internet has breathed new life into the antifluoridation effort bringing the antifluoridation message into voters’ homes.71,72 With just a click of the mouse, search engines can locate a large number of websites denouncing fluoridation, which can give the impression that this is a one-sided argument. Individuals who look to the internet as a source of valid and reliable information often fail to recognize that these sites frequently contain personal opinion rather than scientific fact. Newspaper stories,
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