By Andrew Restuccia - 01/07/11 04:52 PM EST
The Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that fluoride in the nation’s drinking water should be set at lower levels to avoid excessive exposure to the substance, which prevents tooth decay.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency said it would begin a review of the maximum amount of fluoride that should be allowed in the water supply.
Water fluoridation, which began in the 1940s, has resulted in significant declines in tooth decay in the United States. Now, the Obama administration is working to ensure that Americans are not overexposed to fluoride. Overexposure can result in “dental fluorosis,” which can weaken tooth enamel.
While dental fluorosis is rare, HHS recommends lowering the amount of fluoride in the water supply to the lowest level of the current range, because Americans are already exposed to fluoride in most toothpastes.
EPA is reviewing scientific assessments of the effects of fluroride and will decide whether to lower the maximum amount that can be pumped into the water supply.
“EPA’s new analysis will help us make sure that people benefit from tooth decay prevention while at the same time avoiding the unwanted health effects from too much fluoride,” EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water Peter Silva said in a statement.