If Logansport grows its population base on the south side with the creation of a new Ivy Tech State College campus and the four-lane entrance to the city at the Burlington Avenue interchange, Dan Cain could see the need for a subtle change.
The Indiana State Department of Health director of water fluoridation and oral health says growth could lead to one change in the local water supply — the addition of fluoridation for water on the south side. Logansport is a schizophrenic city when it comes to adding fluoride to its drinking water. North of the Wabash River, residents are served by fluoridation equipment at the local water works. But those who live south of the Wabash get their water from Logansport State Hospital wells. Since there are several well houses, each of which would require separate fluoridating equipment, fluoride has never been added to the wells since Logansport began tapping the wells in the 1990s.
“If the population keeps growing, the cost/benefit of buying and installing the equipment would be worthwhile,” Cain says. “The recent data now from Centers for Disease Control says that every dollar invested in fluoride saves $38 in dental treatment costs. I’ve heard some dentists say it’s somewhat more than that.”
Cain says there are around 90 communities that have the right amount of naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water.
Logansport, which first fluoridated its city water system in 1956, is the largest Indiana city without a completely fluoridated water supply for all of its residents. Connersville had that distinction several years ago until officials there fluoridated the supply in 2001.
But not having a fluoridated water supply is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, whether city water supplies should be fluoridated is an ever fluorishing public policy debate. New Bedford, Mass., is among cities that recently debated the question publicly.
Chip Blatchley, a Purdue engineer professor, says there may not be a right answer on fluoride.
“It’s a $50 question. It’s not clear to me that either the inclusion or exclusion of fluoride is really the right thing to do. I think there’s a legitimate debate going on right now about whether you should fluoridate water.”
“The Amercian Dental Association is a strong advocate for its prevention of tooth decay, but there are those who have expressed concern on the adverse effects of human health. How you balance those things is a tough question.”
Logansport Municipal Utilities Manager Paul Hartman, who headed the city Water Department for several years, says the issue may have been part of a referendum in the 1950s in Logansport. If Logansport eliminated fluoride altogether, it would save about $20,000 to $25,000 annually.
“The state also has told us on the south side, it’s not reasonable or economical to fluoridate because it would have to be done at six different points,” he said.
“It’s very simple. Just a tank and some pumps. It’s a very simple thing to do to add fluoride.”
Deciding whether the pros of research for fluoride outweigh the cons is not so simple, however. Although flouridating water supplies can help poor children and families, federal research indicates some potential links to a form of bone cancer and possibly to Alzheimer’s disease. According to the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times, a 1981 Harvard study found a 72 percent reduction in tooth decay in people who used fluoridated water.