Ellijay resident tackles ongoing fluoride debate
by Whitney Crouch
For years, Ellijay resident Daniel Stockin thought water fluoridation was “good and safe and all-American (as) mom’s apple pie.”
His perspective changed nine years ago when he began to study the issue for himself using the arsenal of skills and knowledge from his background in toxics assessment and safely managing hazardous materials.
“My jaw just hit the ground because this was a no-brainer about fluoridation (the process of adding fluoride to public water supplies with the purpose of reducing tooth decay). It was very sobering to me,” recalled Stockin who is a career public health professional and former manager of the Environmental Protection Agency Western Regional Lead Training Center.
Feeling that it would not be “morally right to take steps to protect (himself from fluoride) but not tell others (about the dangers it poses),” Stockin founded the Gilmer County-based organization The Lillie Center for Scientific Research and Development in Health and Alternative Energy (powerandhealth.org) and has dedicated himself to spreading the word about the dangers he believes fluoride poses.
‘Successul’ initiative or ‘slow poisoning’
Water fluoridation, which began in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Mich., has been hailed as a major healthcare achievement by many organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and American Dental Association.
Dr. Craig Ajmo, of Ellijay’s Mountain Dental Associates, agrees with this assessment.
“I do have a lot of confidence in it … It’s a broad based healthcare initiative that’s had a huge impact (on our lives),” stated the local dentist, who is involved with the International Association for Dental Research, the Dental Practice Based Research Network and the American Dental Association’s Evidence Based Dentistry Champions Conferences.
“(Fluoridation) is considered to be one of the most successful public health initiatives this country has ever seen,” Ajmo continued. “For instance, in my grandparents’ generation, it was common to just have teeth pulled and dentures put in. With full dentures if you can get 20 percent of your chewing ability that is the best you can do. That has a long-term impact on your ability to feed yourself, provide nutrition to your body, not to mention quality of life. Now, a large number of our elderly patients have a full complement of teeth, which has a positive impact on their overall health and lifespan.”
“I don’t have any concerns as long as it’s properly used,” he concluded. “There are a lot of stories out there about fluoride being toxic and what not, but in the concentrations we use it, those don’t hold true. The fact is even water can kill you if you take in too much of it.”
Stockin, however, views water fluoridation as “a slow poisoning.”
“Why is it we are told to spit this out?” he asked, holding up a tube of fluoride-toothpaste bearing a warning label against ingesting.
“And swallow this?” he added, pointing to a glass of fluoridated water.
He went on to observe that some companies sell fluoride-free water and toothpaste for young children but expressed frustration that these alternatives are not more widely known.
“What about families who don’t know about (those options), who do not speak English or are poor? Do their toddlers not count?” he questioned.
If fluoride is supposed to help reduce tooth decay, is it possible to get too much of a good thing?
Both proponents and opponents of putting fluoride in water say yes.
If exposed to high levels of fluoride, people can develop a condition known as dental fluorosis, the mild form of which is characterized by white spots on one’s teeth.
As described by Ajmo, dental fluorosis “is the ingestion of too much fluoride by a child, typically because there is too much fluoride in his or her water system that causes the teeth to have a mottled look — a sort of brownish, muddy appearance. This is really only a cosmetic problem, because interestingly enough, they typically have little if any dental decay.”
During his 32 years in practice, three of which were in the public health service in south Georgia, Ajmo has seen some examples of advanced fluorosis but explained these were usually in rural areas where people never had their wells tested for fluoride levels and other mineral content.
As stated on the CDC website, in severe, rare cases individuals may also develop a painful condition called skeletal fluorosis as a result of being exposed to high fluoride levels over the course of a lifetime.
While he views fluorosis as “the Achilles’ heel of water fluoridation,” Stockin is also concerned about what other parts of the body can be adversely affected by ingesting fluoride.
“Fluorides change the architecture and appearance of teeth, which are the hardest surfaces in the human body. What are the fluorides doing to our soft tissues, such as our kidneys, thyroid glands and brain?” Stockin observed. “When you drink fluoridated water, it gets in every cell (in your body).”
He is particularly concerned about the lack of research into the long-term effects of fluoride on such things as renal function, diabetes and IQ levels.
What is your total dose?
If too much fluoride can cause health problems, one of Stockin’s main concerns is that “we don’t even know how much fluoride people are getting … that’s very disturbing.”
He observed that a person’s total fluoride intake is not limited to how much he or she drinks from public water systems, but that one must also consider toothpastes and the amount of fluoridated water they are exposed to through showers and the food they eat. Indeed, many foods, such as soft drinks and canned goods, are made with fluoridated water.
Furthermore, he is concerned that universal water fluoridation does not distinguish between the needs of individual people.
Speaking to the Times-Courier, he gave the illustration of a 230-pound man and a 20-pound toddler drinking the same amount of water.
“They just got the same dose (of fluoride even though they have) different body weights. One size does not fit all,” he stated.
In an effort to limit the amount of fluoride he is personally exposed to, Stockin uses toothpaste that does not contain the substance, takes quick showers and gets well water from a friend’s house to use for drinking and cooking.
“It’s not easy to protect yourself when you’re in fluoridated areas,” he noted, observing how some brands of bottled water draw from fluoridated sources and that home distillation and reverse osmosis equipment are costly methods for removing fluoride from water.
“The fact is that dentists have for too long attempted to control the discussion about fluoride harm,” Stockin observed, adding that he has “no animosity at all toward dentists” particularly since his wife worked in dentistry for 13 years. ‘They are hoping desperately to avoid lawsuits and claim that miraculously, swallowing completely uncontrolled, unknown amounts of fluorides by people of unknown medical histories affects only the teeth in their mouths and no other tissues throughout the rest of the body. Certain groups such as kidney patients and babies are now known to be particularly vulnerable to harm from ingested fluorides, and when we have susceptible groups being given uncontrolled dosing of a substance that can cause harm, clearly we have left common sense in the rear view mirror.”
In Georgia, communities are mandated to fluoridate public water supplies.
“It’s not up to me to pull fluoride … we have to put it in by our permit,” confirmed Gary Nix, supervisor of the Ellijay-Gilmer County water treatment plant, as he described the process of how liquid fluoride is pumped into the filtered water supply.
The local plant seeks to maintain a rate of 0.8 milligrams per liter (mg/L) and tests the level of fluoride in the local drinking supply four times a day. Once a month, samples are sent to the local health department.
“We’ve won awards by keeping our water within standards,” Nix stated.
The effective range for fluoride is in the range of 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L and the rate of 0.85 has been set as optimum for across the country, according to Jerry Stapp, fluoride specialist for the Georgia Rural Water Association, a nonprofit that represents and assists rural water and wastewater systems throughout Georgia.
He went on to say that fluoride traces can already be found naturally in water and the rates are adjusted so as to bring them into the range for helping to make teeth stronger.
“We monitor water systems (in Georgia) very closely,” Stapp added, speaking of the Georgia Rural Water Association with which he has worked for 35 years. “We inspect every fluoride system in the state annually … and provide training sessions (for improving the process).”
Stockin’s hope is that Georgia citizens will educate themselves on what he sees as a controversial issue and ask their state legislators to repeal mandatory fluoridation requirements.
“Atlanta is ground zero for collapse of fluoridation (because it is home to the CDC, which) is at the heart of the ‘Fluoridegate’ scandal,” he observed. “The thing will collapse … and it’s going to be a calamitous collapse. And it’s going to expose not just fluoride but the system that enabled it to continue for this long after it was known to be harmful.”
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