Council to revisit water fluoridation issue
Post Independent Staff
Twenty years after a public vote on the issue, the city of Glenwood Springs is again sinking its teeth into the question of whether to fluoridate city water.
City Council Thursday night will discuss a request by city resident Joan Troth and Steve Campbell to reconsider the use of fluoride in drinking water.
The additive is used to try to help prevent tooth decay, but the two believe it is unhealthy.
In a letter published in the Post Independent Tuesday, Troth said research has linked fluoride to arthritis, hip fractures, thyroid disease, genetic damage and bone cancer.
Glenwood Springs has debated the issue before. Robin Millyard, the city’s public works director, reported in a memo this week that in a special election on Aug. 6, 1985, voters decided 589-438 in favor of beginning to fluoridate water.
The city’s fluoridation equipment and its installation were paid for by a state grant.
Troth contends that studies show tooth decay is about the same in communities with and without fluoridated water.
She also wrote, “Since fluoride additives are a toxic byproduct of the fertilizer industry, they can contain lead, arsenic and radium.
“Most people are already receiving too much fluoride from juice, teas, colas, cereals and other processed foods. Ninety-eight percent of western Europe has rejected water fluoridation.”
Advocates of fluoride’s use offer a starkly different assessment of its value. Among those advocates are Colorado’s entire congressional delegation, including U.S. Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat who represents western Colorado.
In a March 31 letter to Gary Cummins, executive director of the Colorado Dental Association, U.S. senators and House members from Colorado said studies show that “optimal fluoridation” can cut tooth decay by as much as 60 percent in children and 35 percent in adults.
They wrote that water fluoridation costs 20 to 50 cents per person each year.
“Over a lifetime, this is less than the cost of one dental filling to repair one decayed tooth,” they wrote.
Their letter says the Centers of Disease Control has cited water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th Century.
It states that 145 million people in more than 10,000 U.S. communities drink fluoridated water, as do more than 300 million people in more than 40 countries worldwide.
In an interview, Millyard said he hears people talk about the fluoridation issue every few years.
“It’s still a fairly hot topic among people that want to debate it,” he said.
Millyard said he grew up in southeastern Colorado, where some drinking water supplies have higher natural levels of fluoride than what Glenwood Springs adds to its water.
City staff isn’t making any recommendation to council at this point about whether the city should continue fluoridating its water. Millyard said it comes down to what the public and council want.
“If the bulk of people don’t want it in the water we’ll take it out,” Millyard said.
Dr. Jay Heim, a Glenwood Springs dentist, supports the fluoridation program.
“There’s lots of studies to back this up, years and years of studies, that fluoride in adequate additions to water supplies does help decrease the amount of tooth decay in a community,” he said.
He said if there are scientific studies raising health concerns about fluoridation, he would take a close look at them, but he tends to be leery of such claims, some of which arise from testimonials rather than research.
He said the American Dental Association and the “overwhelming majority” of dentists support fluoridation, as does most of the general public. He believes the opposition consists of a “very vocal minority.”
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