Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Hirzy: EPA drags feet on flouride

Department ‘scared witless’ says AU prof.

Hirzy: EPA drags feet on flouride
CONTAMINATION — Dr. Bill Hirzy, chair of AU’s Chemistry Department, worked for the EPA from 1981 to 2008. He says that despite pleas from department employees, the department still refuses to undertake a risk assessment of flouride in drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency ignores the dangers of fluoride in drinking water, according to Dr. Bill Hirzy, the chair of AU’s Chemistry Department.

Hirzy discussed conflicts within the EPA, an organization he worked for from 1981 to 2008, in a Kennedy Political Union event Tuesday, Oct. 26.

He served for three years as the president of Local 2050 of the National Federation of Federal Employees, which is a union for workers at EPA’s headquarters in D.C.

After concerns arose regarding the safety of human consumption of fluoride, and despite the urging of many EPA personnel as early as the mid-1980s for the EPA to undertake a risk assessment of fluoride in drinking water, the EPA has still not made this risk assessment, Hirzy said.

“They are scared witless of having to find that fluoride is a carcinogen and setting a maximum contaminant level goal of zero because that would mean the EPA is going to be responsible for the end of the water fluoridation program,” Hirzy said. “EPA knows that there will be enormous political flack for doing that.”

According to its Web site on groundwater and drinking water, the EPA has enforced a four milligrams-per-liter drinking water standard for fluoride, explaining that consumption of water with greater concentrations that over many years can lead to bone disease.

The EPA has also set a secondary standard of two milligrams-per-liter to protect children under 9 years old, or any individuals with permanent teeth developing below the gums, from dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis can cause these teeth to experience brown staining.

The presence of fluoride in toothpaste is not dangerous because people spit it out after they use it, according to Hirzy.

Hirzy said that a significant factor in the future health of the environment and protection of people from toxic substances is action on the part of current college students.

“My father’s generation was known as the ‘greatest generation’ for having saved civilization from fascism,” Hirzy said. “It’s on you guys now to be the greatest generation too, for saving civilization, period, from the predations that we have done on Mother Earth.”

The event was co-sponsored by EcoSense and AU Solidarity.

Drew Veysey, the president of EcoSense and a senior with a major in Environmental Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that students should emulate Hirzy’s desire to recognize and guard against the risks of toxic substances that threaten the environment.

“Toxic substances are still an environmental hazard,” Veysey said. “They’ve been overshadowed by things like climate change recently, but that doesn’t mean that toxics have gone away.”

The next KPU event will feature Barbara Cummings, the State Department diplomat in residence for the Mid-Atlantic region. She will discuss her career as a Foreign Service officer, and the preparation necessary for such a career. The event will be held Thursday, Oct. 29 in Mary Graydon Center 4 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

You can reach this staff writer at hperlman@theeagleonline.com.


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