Chloramines are the newest chemical expected to be used as a secondary disinfectant in the future. However, fluoride was also in the spotlight following a November campaign by some local residents to ban its use in the water supply.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council both heard arguments last week for and against the practice, which began in the early 1950s. Both bodies say they favor the continued fluoridation of public drinking water.
“[Fluoridation] continues to be recommended today by almost every expert panel: the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many others,” said Dr. Lilian Peake, the Thomas Jefferson Health District director, to the City Council.
“While water fluoridation does not eradicate tooth decay, it has been proven to be a safe and effective way to improve dental health in our community,” said David Coon, president of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Dentist Society.
Continued opposition to water fluoridation was also heard by both City Council and the Albemarle supervisors. Emerald Young, co-organizer of Fluoride Free Charlottesville, voiced her concerns about the safety and ethics of fluoridation.
“Because it is a medication, you must disclose the risks and the adverse health effects,” Young said. “I don’t believe that’s been done. Informed consent to be medicated is missing.”
Ellen A. Tobey, executive director of the Community Dental Center, a nonprofit organization that provides dental care to children, said she believes much of the opposition to fluoridation comes from the public’s inability to choose whether fluoride is added to their water.
“I think a lot of people, understandably, want to have a choice, and they have confused fluoridation with a pharmacological application that it is not,” Tobey said.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek was concerned about the effects of drinking too much fluoridated water.
“The amount that someone could physically take in is still a safe level,” Peake said.
The panel of medical experts, who were present at both meetings, stated that to reach unsafe levels of fluoride, a 200-pound man would have to drink 2,000 gallons of treated water in one day.
“The only known [negative] association with drinking fluoridated water is mild forms of enamel fluorosis — white spots or streaks that can appear on the teeth,” Peake said. “These do not have an effect on tooth function and the goal is to get the level of fluoridation so that you get maximum protection against cavities and the least risk of fluorosis.”
Tobey said fluoridated water is incredibly beneficial to young children, many of whom suffer from tooth decay. She said that the Community Dental Center sees the benefits of fluoride-treated water daily.
“Our observation is that our water has appropriate amounts of fluoride, not too much and not too little,” Tobey said.
City councilors were responsive to what the supporters of fluoride had to say.
“I feel it is a good policy to fluoridate the water,” Mayor Satyendra Huja said. “All I’ve heard is that it is good for our health.”
Councilor Kristin Szakos agreed, saying, “I am a big fan of fluoride.”
Supervisors were also in agreement with the use of fluoride.
“The weight of the scientific evidence is that it’s a positive health benefit for the community and ought to continue,” Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said.
“Carry on with the fluoride,” Mallek said.