Fluoride in the water? Wellington sparked poison or prevention debate – News – The Palm Beach Post
From the canopy of palm trees overlooking the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, birds make the loudest noise at the north end of Palm Beach County’s No. 3 Water Treatment Plant.
Between the chirps, a rhythmic “swoosh” can be heard every few seconds from a tangle of pumps connected to two white external tanks at the foot of the trees. That’s the sound of fluoride – drop by drop – making its way into a system that produces 30 million gallons of drinking water every day.
There are similar fluoride pumping systems in waterworks across the county that give more than 777,000 residents in eight parishes – about 61 percent of the county – an edge in fighting tooth decay.
But for many people, the “swoosh” of pumps west of Delray Beach is the sound of mass public drugs with unknown and potentially dangerous long-term effects.
A pump was silenced last week after the Wellington Council voted 3-2 late Tuesday to end fluorination of its water. Wellington, which has used fluoride since 2000, is the first county to discontinue the practice.
“It’s very disappointing to me because as a public health dentist, I really try to prevent diseases before they arise. This is an opportunity to do so. Fluoridation is a huge cost saving for the average person, ”said Dr. Philippe Bilger, Dental Director for the Pam Beach County Department of Health.
The federal government says public water fluoridation can reduce tooth decay by 25 percent. But that hasn’t stopped opponents claiming that too much fluoride can cause problems with teeth, bones, and kidneys.
Since 2010, 70 communities – from Smithville, Missouri, to Hamilton, New Zealand – have opposed public water fluoridation, according to the opposition group Fluoride Action Network. This includes at least 30 parishes that have voted to end existing programs.
Government health officials say these communities are misguided because there is no evidence that public water fluoridation has been linked to long-term health problems.
Fluoride occurs naturally in the district’s water supply at 0.2 milligrams per liter. The county’s fluoridation system increases that amount to 0.7 milligrams per liter, a concentration well within the limits recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county fluoridates its water system by injecting fluorosilicic acid, a liquid chemical. The county adds other tiny amounts of chemicals, including chlorine, ammonia, and acid, to its water as part of the treatment and disinfection process.
From 2005 to 2011, the US Department of Health recommended fluoride levels of up to 1.2 milligrams per liter. However, this was lowered to 0.7 in 2011 to reduce the chances of children developing mild fluorosis, which causes white or yellow spots on teeth.
These risks are well worth the benefits of public fluoridation as it helps reduce tooth decay in people from all socio-economic backgrounds, said Dr. Barbara Gooch, assistant director of science in the CDC’s Oral Health Division.
A CDC study found that in communities of more than 20,000 people, every dollar invested in fluoridating water translates into about $ 38 in savings from less treated cavities each year.
“If we look at the ethics of municipal water fluoridation, the benefits are clear and the risks are limited to mild fluorosis,” Gooch said.
Opponents argue that toothpaste and mouthwash already contain fluoride. Adding it to public tap water makes it impossible to measure the effects on the entire body because people drink different amounts of water.
“There are too many variables (for public bodies) to deal with en masse,” said Dr. Bill Osmunson, a Portland, Oregon, dentist and FAN spokesperson for 35 years.
While the CDC identified public fluoridation as one of the greatest public health innovations of the last century, Osmunson predicted that one day it will be viewed as “one of the greatest public health mistakes of the 20th century”.
The fluoride debate is not new to Palm Beach County. After a contentious debate in 2003, commissioners voted in favor of adding fluoride to the county’s water system, a practice that began on January 14, 2005.
Committee members voted again in 2006 after a National Research Council report called for additional research on public water fluoridation. Although County Administrator Bob Weisman recommended that the practice be discontinued, commissioners voted 4 to 3 that year to continue adding fluoride to a system with 450,000 customers.
After Wellington voted to end fluoride use last week, Weisman said he had no intention of raising the sensitive issue again. But he said his stance from 2006 hadn’t changed.
“When you read the literature on this, there are things that raise health concerns. I think there might well be dental benefits, but safety is still a real concern, ”he said.
Naomi Flack of South Florida Citizens for Safe Drinking Water included Weisman’s 2006 statement in a memo she sent to Wellington Councilors last week.
“Please don’t be fooled by recommendations from major health authorities,” she wrote. “Common sense tells you that if you can’t control how much water people drink, you can’t control the individual dose of a known toxin. This is medically harmless and also violates freedom of choice. “
Decades earlier, government health officials had raised concerns about fluoride in public water before investigating the problem to find acceptable levels, said Kip Duchon, the CDC’s national fluoridation engineer.
In 1951, the National Research Council issued the first recommendation for all communities with children to fluorinate public water supplies. Since then, CDC officials say, opponents of fluoridation have claimed it increases the risk of cancer, Down syndrome, heart disease, osteoporosis and broken bones, AIDS and low intelligence.
The safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation have been reassessed many times, and there is no credible evidence to establish a link between fluoridation and any of these conditions, the CDC said.
“If someone started the controversy,” said Duchon, “it was the public health service that made sure it was doing the right thing.”
Meanwhile, a local health official says Wellington officials will one day regret their decision.
“I think this will have an impact on the city of Wellington. There could be an increase in decay,” said Bilger of the county health department.
A retired dentist said he was particularly disappointed with Wellington’s choice.
“They paid no attention to the science they had. It’s hard for me to understand,” said Carmine Priore, a former Wellington councilor who voted to introduce fluoridation in 1999.
“We have had this in the water for 10 years and no one has come up and said it was a problem.”
Priore, who retired from the dental practice in 1995 after 30 years, had some advice for the city.
“It should be your responsibility to send notices to parents that ‘your water is no longer fluoridated. Please contact your pediatrician to get it in tablet form. ” ‘