How Much Fluoridation is Safe?

The Gloucester vote on fluoridation is on Tuesday November 5th

A “Yes” vote will continue the practice of adding sodium fluoride to our drinking water. 

A “No” vote will stop the practice of fluoridation in Gloucester.


0.7 Parts per Million

On April 27,2015, The United States Health and Human Services issued a proclamation that the “optimal” concentration of fluoride in drinking water should now be 0.7 parts per million (ppm), versus the old “optimal” range of 0.7ppm to 1.2ppm, which has been in place since 1962.  The very next day, The Massachusetts Health and Human Services dutifully passed this on to each and every Board of Health in Massachusetts.  On May 7, The Gloucester Board of Health followed suit by voting in favor of this proclamation.  Rockport will no doubt chime in any day now.

Interestingly enough, none of these bodies has provided any scientific evidence whatsoever that 0.7 ppm is a valid number. One must then surmise it has been randomly chosen.  Even worse, none offered a clear definition of “optimal”, but perhaps we can fill in the blanks for them here.

The EPA tells us that concentrations of natural fluorides above 4ppm can cause severe skeletal fluorosis….Bone spurs, deformed limbs, calcified ligaments, conditions often mistaken for plain old severe, crippling, arthritis.  So clearly, we’d better have less than 4ppm in our water.  The EPA’s administration has no comment on less severe forms of fluorosis which can result from lower fluoride concentrations.

It was determined (as a guess) during the 1940s that, with water fluoridated with synthetic fluorides to 1.0 ppm, only about 10% of our population would develop fluorosis.  Today, at 1.0 ppm the CDC tells us that 41% of US teens 12-14 years old have fluorosis, which shows up first as permanent white or brown spots on their teeth.  So clearly, something is going wrong.  Apparently, “optimal” must be lower than 1.0 ppm.  The EPA Union of Scientists and Engineers tells us that zero parts per million would be their best guess. They have been at odds with their administration over this for over 2 decades now.

There are quite a few “maybes” with all of this.  Maybe fewer teens will have fluorosis over the next few decades with the new improved “optimal” concentration, but without any study to back it up, it’s pretty hard to judge the impact, if any.  Maybe they will need to drop the concentration to 0.3 ppm someday, which is about what nature gives us in the first place.  Maybe we’d be better off just stopping the practice altogether.




mike foleyMichael Foley is a retired mechanical engineer who resides in Gloucester, MA.   He is a songwriter, musician and stone sculptor, and has been heavily involved in the effort to stop the practice of  fluoridation on Cape Ann, MA.