ANCHORAGE – If you’re wondering whether fluoride in your drinking water is safe, the answer you get will depend on who you ask.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognize fluoridation of water as a cost-effective way to prevent tooth decay, but a group of Anchorage residents believes it’s unsafe and leads to serious health problems.
Dustin Darden, the co-sponsor of a petition to get the fluoride issue on the April ballot, says he regularly drives 20 minutes south of Anchorage along the Seward Highway to collect gallons of water from a pipe that runs out of the side of the mountain.
“Oh it’s the best water in the world,” said Darden after taking a sip, adding that he’s sure there’s no fluoride in it.
He says he would like to have similar peace of mind when it comes to the water running out of his own tap at home, and that’s why he’s collecting signatures. The group, Clean Water Team Anchorage, is circulating a photo from Anchorage Water and Waste Utility (AWWU), showing the bags of fluoride that go into the water.
AWWU general manager Brett Jokela says while the label on the bag that reads “toxic” might be concerning to some, it’s important to understand the amount of fluoride in the water.
“The chemical itself has toxicity that is well beyond what would be acceptable if you were eating the salt. You don’t want to do that. We’re applying a very small concentration,” he said.
He compares the amount to half an aspirin in a bath tub, saying the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows up to 4 milligrams per liter of fluoride in public water, but Anchorage’s water only has roughly 0.7 milligrams per liter.
Ian Schacht, lab manager at ARS Aleut Analytical, says he’s tested water samples from all over Anchorage for years.
“I have never seen a sample within the state of Alaska, since the time I’ve been working in analytical chemistry, that I’ve actually seen a fluoride level that has been elevated above what’s considered safe for the EPA drinking water.”
But Darden says, even a little is too much, “A little bit of poison versus no poison, I’d go with no poison at all.”
Darden said to get the anti-fluoride initiative on the ballot, the petition will need more than 5,000 signatures or the vote of six Assembly members. However, deputy clerk of elections for the municipality Amanda Moser said in an email Friday there is no requirement for Assembly votes. Sponsors will need to gather 5,754 signatures, she said.
There have been grassroots efforts to remove fluoride from the water in the past, but this one has more support than ever before — Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, is a co-sponsor of the petition.