Bottled Water & Flouride

Concern Over a Different Kind of Drinking Habit

During the National Children's Dental Health Month in February, the Chicago Dental Society (CDS) sponsored a poetry contest to help promote awareness of good oral health.The poems both impressed and amused me. I thought I would share several of these with you, both for their entertainment value as well as the educational message these young people hoped to share.

Now would be a nice time to have stock in bottled water sales. However, if you are putting stock in it keeping you and your children healthy, you may want to reinvest your thinking.

Statistics from the Beverage Marketing Association show that over the past twenty years sales of bottled water have grown 1,053%. While Americans drank 280 million gallons of bottled water back in 1977, 1997 saw sales of 3.2 billion gallons.

While these figures make for healthy profits, it may not make for healthy mouths. Tests show that most bottled water does not contain fluoride, a mineral children need to create strong enamel and fight dental disease. Hundreds of studies have shown that adding fluoride to water at 1.1 parts per million reduces cavities by approximately 30 percent. Fluoride is also critical for adults because it promotes enamel remineralization, helps prevent root caries or decay at the gumline and is an important component in maintaining overall bone health.

The American Dental Association wants parents to know that children who are using bottled water exclusively or even predominantly may not be getting enough fluoride to prevent decay.

The problem is compounded by the limited method in which the FDA regulates fluoride levels in bottled waters. To begin, the FDA does not require minimum levels of fluoride water bottlers add fluoride to their goods, they are not required to label the fluoride content. Finally, while the FDA does regulate the upper limits of the amount of fluoride in bottled water to prevent fluoride toxicity, literature from the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) shows that "most brands and types of bottled water do not contain the level of fluoride recommended to fight tooth decay".

As if bottled water wasn't worrisome enough, water filtration systems are also responsible for reducing fluoride levels. The three types of filtration systems that reduce fluoride levels the most are activated charcoal, reverse osmosis and heat distillation. These cut fluoride by 81%, 84% and 99% respectively. Children who drink only filtered water may also require dietary, fluoride supplements.

For more information about bottled water fluoride levels call the IBWA at 800/928-3711 or see their web site at www.bottled

While they do not label for contents, most bottlers do put a toll-free telephone number on their products. Finally, you can arrange to have your water tested for fluoride levels through your county health department.

Dr. Stephen Petras

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