Civil Rights Leaders Call for Halt to Water Fluoridation

Because fluoride can disproportionately harm poor citizens and black families, Atlanta civil rights leaders, Andrew Young and Dr. Gerald Durley, have asked Georgia legislators to repeal the state’s mandatory water fluoridation law.

Andrew Young, former U.N. Ambassador and former Atlanta Mayor, along with Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley, Pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Atlanta, both inductees in the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, expressed concerns about the fairness, safety, and full disclosure regarding fluoridation in letters to the state’s minority and majority legislative leaders. (1,2)

Fluoride chemicals, added to 96% of Georgia’s public drinking water supplies are meant to prevent tooth decay, especially in the poor. Yet, 61% of low-income Georgia third-graders have tooth decay compared to 51% from higher income families - and 33% and 20%, respectively, have untreated cavities showing a dire need for dental care. (3)

“We also have a cavity epidemic today in our inner cities that have been fluoridated for decades,” wrote Ambassador Young.

Studies show that despite fluoridation, tooth decay is higher in blacks (4) along with dental fluorosis, a visible sign of fluoride toxicity.(5)

Dr. Durley wrote, “The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences has designated kidney patients, diabetics, seniors, and babies as ‘susceptible subpopulations’ that are especially vulnerable to harm from ingested fluorides. Black citizens are disproportionately affected by kidney disease and diabetes, and are therefore more impacted by fluorides.”

Ambassador Young wrote, “I am most deeply concerned for poor families who have babies: if they cannot afford unfluoridated water for their babies’ milk formula, do their babies not count? Of course they do. This is an issue of fairness, civil rights, and compassion. We must find better ways to prevent cavities, such as helping those most at risk for cavities obtain access to the services of a dentist.”

Young added, “My father was a dentist. I formerly was a strong believer in the benefits of water fluoridation for preventing cavities. But many things that we began to do 50 or more years ago we now no longer do, because we have learned further information that changes our practices and policies. So it is with fluoridation.”

Dr. Durley's letter to the legislators also says, “I support the holding of Fluoridegate hearings at the state and national level so we can learn why we haven’t been openly told that fluorides build up in the body over time (and) why our government agencies haven’t told the black community openly that fluorides disproportionately harm black Americans…“

In January, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed to lower fluoride levels in drinking water fluoridation schemes to alleviate the growing dental fluorosis epidemic, which now affects 41% of adolescents ages 12-15. (6,7)

The Fluoride Action Network submitted comments to HHS on its proposal (8) documenting that:

• HHS has failed to consider fluoride's impact on the brain. Fluoride has been linked to lowered IQ in 24 human studies, and over 100 animal studies have reported damage to the brain.

• Infants who are fed formula made with fluoridated tap water will receive up to 175 times more fluoride than breast-fed infants. Infants 0-6 months old, the smallest and most vulnerable in our population, were completely excluded from risk calculations in HHS's proposal.

• African-American children and low-income children suffer from the highest rates of dental fluorosis, including the most severe forms of the condition. The HHS has failed to take any steps to redress this inequity, thereby making fluoridation an Environmental Justice issue.

According to Fluoride Action Network (FAN), the CDC’s "lowered" level of fluoride is still too high, and will not protect millions of American children from dental fluorosis. Nor will it protect against fluoride's other effects, including potentially irreparable damage to the developing brain.

According to Paul Connett, director of FAN: "Fluoridation is unnecessary, unethical, the benefits wildly exaggerated and the risks minimized. It’s time to end it now.”

Fluoride Action Network is a non-profit advocacy group working to broadening public awareness about fluoride.


1. Letter from Andrew Young to Chip Rogers, Senate Majority Leader, Georgia State Capitol, March 29, 2011.

2. Letter from Dr. Gerald Durley to Senator Chip Rogers, Senate Majority Leader, Georgia State Capitol, March 9, 2011. (National Research Council info on kidney patients and others as fluoride-susceptible groups atPage 350 (bottom): 351 (top):

3. Oral Health Status of Georgia's Children, Facts at a Glance.

4. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. 2011. Advancing Oral Health in America. The National Academies Press. Prepublication.

5. Beltrán-Aguilar ED, et al. 2005. Surveillance for Dental Caries, Dental Sealants, Tooth Retention, Edentulism, and Enamel Fluorosis --- United States, 1988--1994 and 1999—2002. MMWR 54(03);1-44. August 26.

• See Table 23,

• See report,

6. Federal Register, Jan 13, 2011: Proposed HHS Recommendation for Fluoride Concentration in Drinking Water for Prevention of Dental Caries.

7. Beltrán-Aguilar ED, et al. 2010. Prevalence and Severity of Dental Fluorosis in the United States, 1999-2004. NCHS Data Brief Number 53. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. November.

8. Fluoride Action Network, Feb 4, 2011. Comments on Proposed HHS Recommendation for Fluoride Concentration in Drinking Water for Prevention of Dental Caries.

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Source: Fluoride Action Network

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