US to lower fluoride levels in water

US to lower fluoride levels in water
© Getty Images

Federal health officials have decreased the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water for the first time in more than 50 years to prevent people from getting too much of the mineral.

The Department of Health and Human Services is advising cities and towns to reduce their use of fluoride because people now have access to other sources, such as toothpaste and mouthwash.

ADVERTISEMENT
The final rule was issued Monday, four years after it was first proposed.

The long-awaited regulation advises towns and cities to maintain fluoride levels at 0.7 milligrams per liter — setting the level at the lowest end of the government's previous recommended range, which was between 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter.

Fluoride has been added to public water sources in the U.S. since the 1960s as an effort to prevent tooth decay. But with more sources of the mineral available, government officials have warned that some people have been getting too much, which can result in a tooth condition called dental fluorosis, which causes spotting on tooth enamel.

The government’s deputy surgeon general said in a statement Monday that the use of fluoride remains important for public health.

“The need for community water fluoridation still continues,” Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak wrote, adding that the practice is both effective and inexpensive.

About 75 percent of communities now add fluoride to drinking water, according to HHS. One study by the department found that every $1 spent on water fluoridation saves about $38 each year from fewer cavities treated.

The newest guidance, which was created in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will put the United States closer in line with recommendations from the World Health Organization, which has advised developed countries to lower their fluoride levels.