Correction: a previous version of this post misrepresented the levels of lead in Flint as 104,000 ppb. The levels found, according to NPR, were actually 104 ppb. The EPA’s limit for drinking water is 15 ppb. Cases like this show just how important it is to have water filters fitted in your home, visit https://waterfilterway.com/best-refrigerator-water-filter-reviews/ to see the options you have.
When the water source of a small community in Michigan was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River due to financial issues, the devastating long-term effects of this decision took the nation by storm. During the nearly two years that the city of Flint was using the toxic water source, its citizens cried out for help. But by the time the city reacted, the damage was irreversible in many ways. According to an article from NPR on April 20, 2016, a resident of Flint had her water tested for lead at 104 parts per billion (ppb) in 2015. The Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for drinking water is 15 ppb.
Much of the nation was enraged at the crisis in Flint, Michigan. After seeing the devastating effects of lead poisoning appear in countless news articles, headlines and social media posts, the nation became rightfully afraid of this happening to their own communities and loved ones. According to Lead Action News, there are 63 unique listed health effects and symptoms from lead poisoning in children and perinatal development and 76 in adults, including cognitive function deficits, miscarriages, sterility and mental health issues. Lead poisoning also affects dentition and oral health. Lead Action News states that exposure to lead can cause “teeth with blue-black lines near the gum base,” which oral health providers can relate to gum recession and possible periodontal disease.
Historically, the dental community has tried to combat oral health diseases not only by educating the public on key issues, but by adding fluoride into drinking water. Fluoride acts by slowing the breakdown of enamel and helping assist in the remineralization process of our dentition. According to the CDC in 2014, roughly 74 percent of the U.S. population served by the community water system received fluoridated water. Some states, however, like Hawaii and Idaho, drop well below this line at 12 and 31 percent respectively. The necessity of fluoride in water is not a recent debate, but the Flint, Michigan, water crisis seemed to elevate it to a new high.
There are many groups that disagree with the addition of fluoride to water. Fluoride Action Network, a group against the fluoridation of community water sources, has claimed that the mineral actually leaches lead from pipes and uses the crisis in Flint as a warning, calling it the “tip of the iceberg.” However, an article from the CDC website in 2013 mutes this point by stating that the fluoride we use in drinking water has a low water solubility, and is added to corrosion inhibitors, increasing the safety of fluoridated water. Although the Flint water crisis sparked questions from the American public regarding the safety of fluoride in water, the ADA still stands firm in the fact that more than 70 years of scientific research has demonstrated a 25 percent decrease in decay of dentition for children and adults while using fluoridated water. Fluoridated water is, according to the CDC, one of the 10 greatest health advancements in the 20th Century, and will continue to have the support of the oral health community nationwide.
~ Jessica Anderson, Georgia ’20