UB's Easley is "Enemy No. 1" of Anti-Fluoride Groups

By Lois Baker

Release Date: February 15, 1999

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The bottled water boom is being blamed for the first rise in childhood cavities in two decades.

Easley is a specialist on the fluoridation of drinking water and the ADA's designated spokesman on the issue. To people who believe adding fluoride to the water supply is a government conspiracy or worse, he is anathema.

"To the antifluoridation folks," Easley says, "I'm Public Enemy Number 1."

Fluoridating public drinking water is still controversial in some circles despite a five-decade record of success in improving dental health. Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1945, was the first city to do so. Since then only 10 states have passed laws mandat ing it. In the other 40, fluoridation happens town by town, city by city. Easley works with these municipalities to educate the public on fluoridation's benefits and to debunk the claims of its detractors.

An important element in this effort is the Web-based National Center for Fluoridation Policy and Research (www.sdm.buffalo.edu/ncfpr), a comprehensive central repository of information on all aspects of fluoridation -- case studies, transcripts of l awsuits, scientific studies, even suppliers of municipal fluoridation equipment -- that Easley established two years ago.

The center was accessible only to professionals in the field before last November, when it went public. Even so, a portion containing Web sites of hundreds of antifluoridation groups that Easley has collected over the years remains off limits to anyo ne not vetted by a known fluoridation proponent.

Such groups are adept at tailoring their information to the particular sensibilities of any community considering fluoridating its drinking water, Easley says.

"Sometimes it's the anti-big-government argument. Sometimes they concentrate on the issue of forced medication. Then there are the contrived arguments that claim fluoride is responsible for every disease known to man; that it is a chemical pollutant, a toxic byproduct or a carcinogen. There is no scientific basis for any of these claims."

Easley returned recently from two weeks in Hawaii working with communities there on fluoridation, and he'll be in West Palm Beach this month and in Seattle and Spokane in March. He helped write California's 1995 bill mandating state-wide fluoridation and continues to work with the California Dental Association advocating fluoridation's public-health benefits. For Easley, that's the easy part.

"Fluoridation prevents up to 70 percent of cavities in communities where it's available," he says. "It makes no sense to have people experience a disease when there is a very easy and inexpensive way to prevent it. Studies have shown that fluoridatin g a municipal water supply costs an average of 50 cents per person per year. If a person lives to be 70, that's a total of $35. That means a lifetime of fluoride is less expensive that one filling in one tooth."

Easley updates the National Center for Fluoridation Policy and Research continually, and is embarking on his own new research.

He has begun a study on the relationship between fluoride exposure and osteoporosis, involving women participating in UB's component of the national Women's Health Initiative study, based on what Easley terms "good early evidence" that fluoride may he lp prevent osteoporosis.

On the issue of bottled-water and cavities, Easley advises parents to consult their physician or dentist and if cavities are a problem in their household, to consider a fluoride prescription. Or, they can buy fluoridated bottled water. Easley's Web site even lists the suppliers.