CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The Clarksburg Water Board has decided it will essentially end the practice of adding fluoride to the water supply.
With the 2-1 vote on April 28, the agency decided to award bids for all water-treatment chemicals except fluoride.
“I don’t see why we should spend funds on a chemical that I don’t intend on ingesting in my body,” board member Paul Howe said on the April 29 edition of “The Mike Queen Show” heard on the MetroNews-affiliated AJR News Network. “I spend a lot of money on filtration to take this heavy metal that we call fluoride, it’s actually hydrofluorosilicic acid and its an industrial waste product.”
He and board member Charles Thayer questioned the long-time promoted dental health benefits associated with community water fluoridation in favor of their uncertainty over potential long-term health risks that have not been universally accepted by the scientific community.
Howe said with the increase in sources for fluoride, such as in toothpaste and mouthwash, fluoridation could lead to too much fluoride intake.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently agreed with this sentiment when its Federal Panel on Community Water Fluoridation recommended changing the optimal fluoride concentration to 0.7 milligrams/liter, from the 0.7 – 1.2 mg/L range established in 1962 Drinking Water Standards. This was the concentration level the Clarksburg Water Board had been utilizing for over a year after the state lowered its recommendation.
“The new recommended level will maintain the protective decay prevention benefits of water fluoridation and reduce the occurrence of dental fluorosis,” Dr. Boris Lushniak, the deputy surgeon general, said to reporters during a conference call after the announcement, according to NPR.
The report detailing the reasoning behind the new recommendation only mentioned dental fluorosis — white streaks appearing on enamel due to over-exposure to fluoride –and no other potential health risks.
For this reason, Dr. Robert Martino, CEO and President of Wilson Martino Dental, believes the Water Board is making a mistake.
“At the level that we’re using it on, it’s completely safe,” he said on the April 29 edition of “The Mike Queen Show”. “The American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, CDC, the World Health Association, the EPA, they all agree that this level is a safe level to use on the community.”
The CDC went as far as to name fluoridation of drink water as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century in the April 2, 1999 edition of the “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.”
Proponents of fluoridation within dentistry, such as Martino, will say fluoride protects teeth from erosion caused by acid created when sugars and the bacteria in the mouth combine and altering the enamels structure and preventing some of the bacteria from forming.
While admitting fluorosis is a possibility, Matino believes claims of other health risk involved with fluoridation are unfounded.
“There’s no scientific basis for what they’re saying,” he said. “Every scientific method and experiment done all goes on the side of fluoride as very beneficial.”
Regardless of whether it is helpful or not, Howe believes those receiving the water should determine what is put in it.
“The public should consent before being medicated, and I can back up that statement. This is the only chemical that we put in the water to treat people and not treat the water.”
The debate over putting fluoride in drinking water has been going on since the practice began in the early 1900s when dentists in Colorado Springs, Colorado noticed patients with fluorosis –then identified as “Colorado Brown Stain“– had no signs of dental caries.
Arguments grew as more public water systems started to treat the water with fluoride byproduct from various manufacturing processes.
The a few of the original arguments against the practice included skepticism over fluoride’s dental health benefits and a communist conspiracy –which was later lampooned in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove.
Various studies backing the benefits of fluoridation, including five released by the National Research Council between 1951-2007, quieted the opposition for a time.
However, in the last decade, the argument against fluoridation has been gaining traction with the emergence of groups such as the Fluoride Action Network and a collection of studies linking fluoride to complications such as developmental issues in infants –classifying fluoride as a neurotoxin— and thyroid problems.
Proponents dismiss the studies, stating they would need to be recreated with similar results multiple times to lead to a shift in the scientific community’s opinion.
Clarksburg is not the only community within the 92 percent —based on the CDC’s 2009 statistics— of fluoridated primary water systems in West Virginia to debate the practice. After the city council in Keyser entertained the idea of removing the substance from the drinking water there, public support led to remaining, according to the Cumberland Times-News.
It is unclear if the majority of the public is supportive of the Clarksburg Water Boards decision.
However, it may become evident in the upcoming election as board member Charles Thayer has opted not to run for reelection, providing an opportunity to for the public to vote in someone who will work with Howe to uphold the decision, or work with Board President Albert Cox to reverse it.
Clarksburg’s municipal election day is June 2.