Monday, January 17, 2011

Magical Thinking on Fluoride

The world is a strange place. Take fluoride, for example. In this country, the handling and disposal of hydrofluorosilicic acid - an industrial by-product from the phosphate fertilizer industry - is closely monitored and regulated by the EPA. That is, until it is sold as a product. Then, as if by magic, this highly toxic substance no longer requires oversight by the EPA. It is transported freely across the country and is added to public drinking water supplies, so that everyone who drinks the water also drinks some of the toxic chemical.

Unlike the fluoride used in toothpaste, hydrofluorosilicic acid is not pharmaceutical-grade quality. It is a corrosive acid, usually unpurified. Exposure to fluoride has been associated with developmental problems in infants and increased levels of lead in children’s blood.

Now, anyone who grew up watching television knows that fluoride helps prevent tooth decay (or so we've been told), so you might think that adding the chemical to drinking water might help reduce tooth decay, but there is actually no scientific evidence to support this theory. The only measurable benefit scientists can document comes from the topical application of fluoride, not from systemic ingestion.

The practice of adding fluoride to drinking water has been banned in most European countries, but here in the United States it is still widely accepted, with government agencies and industrial producers stubbornly clinging to the notion that exposing the entire population to this chemical, without their consent, is wise and just. We strongly disagree.

If you live in an area where fluoride isn't added to your water supply, consider yourself lucky. If not, you might want to think about getting your family a good quality water filter.
- Doug

P. S. We had Dr. Paul Connett on our Green Street radio show last year. To hear the show, click here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New York State: Guardians of the Public Health

A few years ago a title like this would have seemed highly unlikely. And given last year's political spectacle in Albany, you might think nothing much could possibly have been accomplished. Nevertheless, we think 2010 is going to go down in history as the year New York got serious about the public's environmental health. Consider the evidence:
• In May, the State passed truly historic legislation prohibiting the use of pesticides on playing fields at all public and private schools in the state, grades K-12, as well as day care centers. This is the most comprehensive law of its kind anywhere in the country.
• In October, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation announced "Be Green Organic Yards, NY" - a groundbreaking program to train and certify private landscapers in natural (non-pesticide) turf management. No other state offers such a program.
• Just last month, the Interagency Committee on Sustainability and Green Procurement announced a list of "Chemicals for Consideration," containing scores of known or suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and other bio-accumulative toxins. The list will be used by all State agencies making purchasing decisions.
As a member of the Governor's Advisory Council on Sustainability and Green Procurement, I can tell you it was exciting and gratifying to see all our hard work and persistence pay off. For once, I felt we had really moved the ball forward in a significant way.

All three of these initiatives embrace the Precautionary Principle - the idea that the government can and should take action to protect the public's health even when absolute proof of cause and effect has not yet been established.

Now the fight to protect the public's health moves to other states across the country, but with New York leading by example, we hope other state governments will find it easier to move forward on these extremely important issues. We are proud to have been able to play a role in New York's actions this year.
- Patti