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Mandatory Water fluoridation - Ethical and legal questions arise

Is mass medication of public water supplies with an uncontrolled dose of fluoride wrong?

How Science Can Illuminate Ethical Debates A Case Study On Water Fluoridation, By Mark Diesendorf, Fluoride, 1995 May, 28:2

SUMMARY: Some of the fundamental questions about the fluoridation of public water supplies are ethical in nature: e.g. Is medication with an uncontrolled dose wrong? Is mass medication, which is either compulsory or expensive to avoid, wrong? Is fluoridation right if its risks are less than its benefits?

Some leading proponents of fluoridation attempt to evade such ethical issues by quasi-scientific argument. For instance, they claim that fluoridation is not medication, but merely an 'adjustment' of the natural fluoride concentrations in drinking water to the 'optimal' level for reducing tooth decay. Or they allege that fluoride is an essential nutrient, rather than a medication.

But, ethical questions cannot be so easily transformed into scientific and technical ones to be answered glibly by dentists and medical practitioners. This paper assists the elucidation of several ethical questions about fluoridation by first clarifying several related questions of science, technology and logic. This clarification leads to the conclusions that fluoride, at the levels recommended by pro-fluoridationists for reducing tooth decay, is not an essential nutrient; is not a natural substance for babies or for most adults; is not a compulsory medication, but is an expensive-to-avoid medication with an uncontrolled dose; and is harmful to some people. There is scientific evidence that the benefits of fluoridation have been greatly overestimated, but the actual magnitude of benefits is still unclear. It is now clear that any benefit comes from the action of fluoride on the surface of teeth, but there is negligible benefit from swallowing fluoride. It is not possible to weigh risks against benefits in a value-free manner.

These scientific, technical and logical conclusions prepare the way for ethicists and others to examine the fluoridation issue, unencumbered by the usual 'scientific' myths. The original ethical concerns about fluoridation are found to be well-posed questions, an ethical question used by proponents to justify fluoridation is found to be improperly posed, and a new ethical question arises from the analysis.

Mark Diesendorf is with the Human Ecology Program, Department of Geography, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200. Australia. The entire article is available. Click here.

Fluoridation of Public Water Systems: Valid Exercise of State Police Power or Constitutional Violation? Pace Environmental Law Review, by Doublas Balog, Esq., 1997 (comprehensive -- over 200 references).

The need for a Code of Ethics at the EPA became critical. Without an enforceable code of ethics with sanctions, the distortion of truth caused by the pressures of politics would continue.

By the Late Dr. Frederick B. Exner, M.D., F.A.C.R.

There is a sharp difference of opinion as to both the effectiveness and safety of fluoride as a drug to prevent tooth-decay; but however safe and effective it may be in proper dosage, it can be neither safe nor effective when in the water supply, where the dose depends on the amount of water consumed. This is highly variable and totally unrelated to any possible need for the drug, So much is self-evident, and claims to the contrary CANNOT be soundly based.

But even if the water supply were medically suitable as a vehicle for the drug, there are compelling moral reasons why it should not be so used. Many people seem to think that if a majority can be persuaded to vote in favor of doing something, it is in line with democracy for that something to he done. This indicates a misconception about the nature of democracy, which is primarily concerned with the rights of people as human beings, and not with the dominance of the majority. A majority vote which violates ethical or moral principles or deprives individuals of rights they should be free to enjoy, is not democracy but tyranny. It is a subversion of democracy that will bring democracy to an end in the degree that it is allowed to operate.

The survival of democracy depends, first and foremost, upon preserving the rights of individuals. Each and every one of us has a personal responsibility for making sure this is done, and we can enjoy to the full benefits of democracy only if we play our individual parts in protecting those rights, both for ourselves and for each other.

In the Declaration at Independence, we read: 'That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"; and it doesn't say "from the majority of the governed."

Without any question, the first duty of our elected representatives in our legislatures and city councils is the protection of our basic rights as individuals. High in the list of these 'is the right of every individual to look after his own body in ways of this own choosing. Fluoridation automatically violates this right.

That is why we, who oppose fluoridation of water supplies, maintain that it is the manifest duty of legislators end city councils to reject all proposals to fluoridate the water, giving as their reason their duty to protect the rights of the individual citizen from possible tyranny by a misled and thoughtless majority.