US Government Agency Proposes Lowering Fluoride in Bottled Water

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. optimum / ˈɑːptəməm / (adj) – most effective amount or level of something

    You have to drink your medicine on time to achieve the optimum result of the medication.

  2. allowable / əˈlawəbəl / (adj) – acceptable

    The maximum allowable amount of chemicals in food is regulated by the government.

  3. overexposure / ˌoʊvɚrɪkˈspoʊʒɚ / (n) – the state of being excessively exposed to something

    Overexposure to the sun’s rays may cause skin cancer.

  4. fracture / ˈfræktʃɚ / (n) – a broken bone or cartilage

    She was rushed to the hospital because of multiple bone fractures.

  5. behind time / bɪˈhaɪnd taɪm / (idiom) – too late

    The patient’s treatment was unsuccessful because it was given behind time.


Read the text below.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed lowering the maximum amount of fluoride added in bottled water.

Fluoride is a chemical compound typically present in soil, plants, and water. It is usually added to certain products, including toothpaste and breath freshener. The chemical is also added to drinking water because it has been proven that adding an optimum amount of this substance to water helps prevent tooth decay.

Previously, the maximum allowable level of fluoride in bottled water was 0.8 milligrams per liter, but the FDA recently recommended changing it to 0.7 milligrams. The proposed amount conforms to the US Public Health Service’s recommendation in 2015.

According to Doctor Susan Mayne, a director from the FDA, the new proposal aims to ensure that the public will get the benefits of fluoride without risking overexposure. Previous studies revealed that too much fluoride can cause several problems. Two experiments conducted separately found that children exposed to excessive fluoride had lower IQ test results. Too much fluoride may also cause visible stains on the teeth, and in worse cases, can also cause bones to be prone to fractures.

However, the FDA’s proposal was met with some criticism. Some experts believe that the agency’s new proposed amount can still place consumers at risk. According to Doctor Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School, the maximum fluoride level in bottled water should be even lower than 0.7 milligrams per liter. In addition, a researcher from the American Environmental Health Studies Project said that the FDA’s proposal was behind time and will not do much to lessen already existing problems caused by fluoride overexposure.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• After reading this article, do you think it is still okay to drink bottled water? Why or why not?
• How would you ensure that the water you drink is safe? Discuss.

Discussion B

• Who should be responsible for policies on food safety (e.g. the government, manufacturers, food scientists)? Discuss.
• How can the public be more aware of possible health risks of consuming manufactured food (e.g. better labels)?