Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Survey of Expert Opinions

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In recent years, public debate over the standard setting process related to fluoride in drinking water and the fiuoridation of water supplies has been steeped in much controversy. Discussion of such issues has been con strained by the limited consideration of options relevant to particular problems. To examine the responses to specific issues, we presented an analysis of the problem of excessive fluoride in drinking water to a group of 120 experts. Ninety-seven of the 120 responded to a detailed mail questionnaire distributed as part of a larger exploratory survey. Definite patterns in preferences were noted with certain aspects of the problem, although in some cases significant differences were found due to such factors as the institutional affiliation, residential status, and the length of professional experience of the participants. In general, our experts preferred immediate corrective action over extensive further research into the reduction of scientific uncertainties; were willing to take personal action to obtain fluoride-free water rather than wait for official action; preferred the supplier to fluoridate the supplies, if needed; and favoured a strong local control of such issues with consumers of public water systems and private well owners shouldering much of the financial responsibility. Preliminary results from such exploratory surveys can lead to insightful research hypotheses for further testing. Verification of such hypotheses by consumers, from areas with excessive fluoride in drinking water, is a valuable area for future research.

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Environmental Geochemistry and Health, v. 13, issue 1, p. 3-13