to exclude fluoride from the primary drinking-water regulations and to set only an SMCL. South Carolina contended that enamel fluorosis should be considered a cosmetic effect and not an adverse health effect. The American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors, and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials supported the petition. After reviewing the issue, the U.S. Public Health Service concluded there was no evidence that fluoride in public water supplies has any adverse effects on dental health, as measured by loss of teeth or tooth function. U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop supported that position. The National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) recommended that enamel fluorosis should be the basis for a secondary drinking-water regulation. Of the health effects considered to be adverse, NDWAC found osteosclerosis (increased bone density) to be the most relevant end point for establishing a primary regulation.

EPA asked the U.S. Surgeon General to review the available data on the nondental effects of fluoride and to determine the concentrations at which adverse health effects would occur and an appropriate margin of safety to protect public health. A scientific committee convened by the surgeon general concluded that exposure to fluoride at 5.0 to 8.0 mg/L was associated with radiologic evidence of osteosclerosis. Osteosclerosis was considered to be not an adverse health effect but an indication of osseous changes that would be prevented if the maximum content of fluoride in drinking water did not exceed 4 mg/L. The committee further concluded that there was no scientific documentation of adverse health effects at 8 mg/L and lower; thus, 4 mg/L would provide a margin of safety. In 1984, the surgeon general concluded that osteosclerosis is not an adverse health effect and that crippling skeletal fluorosis was the most relevant adverse health effect when considering exposure to fluoride from public drinking-water supplies. He continued to support limiting fluoride concentrations to 2 mg/L to avoid objectionable enamel fluorosis (50 Fed. Reg. 20164 [1985]).

In 1984, NDWAC took up the issue of whether psychological and behavioral effects from objectionable enamel fluorosis should be considered adverse. The council concluded that the cosmetic effects of enamel fluorosis could lead to psychological and behavioral problems that affect the over-all well-being of the individual. EPA and the National Institute of Mental Health convened an ad hoc panel of behavioral scientists to further evaluate the potential psychological effects of objectionable enamel fluorosis. The panel concluded that “individuals who have suffered impaired dental appearance as a result of moderate or severe fluorosis are probably at increased risk for psychological and behavioral problems or difficulties” (R. E. Kleck, unpublished report, Nov. 17, 1984, as cited in 50 Fed. Reg. 20164 [1985]). NDWAC recommended that the primary drinking-water guideline for fluoride be set at 2 mg/L (50 Fed. Reg. 20164 [1985]).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement