The Mises Institute monthly, free with membership
January 2002; Volume 20, Number 1
The Fluoridation Question
Laurence M. Vance
The controversy is as old as the Great Society. So why bring up the fluoridation question again? Well, my county in Florida just voted to fluoridate the water supply. Actually, the government officials in my county who are responsible for such things voted for it—neither I nor my neighbors were ever asked to vote on anything.
But rather than being the substance of a conspiracy theory, as is usually claimed, the question of fluoridation is a question of the proper role of government (federal, state, or local) in society.
The pros and cons of fluoridating the water supply will not be debated here. In fact, they cloud the issue. Nevertheless, there are many good arguments against fluoridation that have nothing to do with the role of government.
Fluoridation is very expensive. The cost is in the millions of dollars, and since people always use water, the costs will not only continue indefinitely, they will surely escalate. It would be cheaper for the government to pay for fillings in the mouths of children who get cavities.
Fluoridation is very inefficient. Most of the water that comes out of the faucet goes into sinks, toilets, showers, washing machines, and dishwashers, not to mention its use on lawns and cars. Buying bottled water further ensures that 100 percent of the treated water goes down the drain.
Fluoridation is wasteful. It is not teenagers and adults whose teeth supposedly benefit from fluoride, only children, and kids aged five to nine at that. Therefore, most of the fluoride is wasted anyway.
Fluoridation has dubious health benefits. Fluoride is a non-biodegradable toxic chemical, and a probable carcinogen. Why is not every environmentalist screaming about the use of fluoride instead of pesticides? Although multitudes have died from the adverse effects of alcohol, to my knowledge no one has ever died from a cavity—aren’t the government’s health concerns a little misplaced?
So if fluoride is costly, inefficient, wasteful, and a potential health hazard, then why is it continually dumped into the nation’s water supply? As one wise man has said: "If it doesn’t make sense there’s a buck in it." So rather than being the result of a commie plot, is fluoridation the result of a capitalist one? Not hardly, unless you consider compulsory mass medicine to be compatible with the free market. As usual, the alliance of big business with government is the culprit.
The issue here is not one of cost, efficiency, waste, or health—it is the proper role of government. Simply stated: Is medical care the concern of government? Any medical care or any government? Fluoridation is not even medical treatment, it is prevention. And yet the same government suppresses the health benefits of vitamins. Go figure.
The end of fluoridation is a small step in the right direction. Let’s keep the government out of our wallets—and our mouths. To end fluoridation would also be a nice step in the war against terrorism: it sends the message that the American people will not put up with any chemical substances being added to their water against their will.
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Laurence M. Vance teaches Greek at Pensacola Bible Institute in Pensacola, Florida (firstname.lastname@example.org).