Brackenridge Borough wants to join the growing list of water suppliers that don’t fluoridate their water.
After months of discussion, Brackenridge Council has taken steps to discontinue fluoride‘s use.
Councilman Timothy Kolar recommended the move, saying it would save the borough about $4,000 per year and would make the plant safer by eliminating a chemical.
“Nowadays, toothpaste and baby formula all have fluoride,” he said. “Also, it’s dangerous to work with. So it’s also a safety factor.”
Fluoride has long been added to public water sources.
Ford City was the first Pennsylvania municipality to add it in 1951, followed by Pittsburgh in 1952.
Ford City officials voted in December to end fluoridation when their new water plant goes online this year.
In the Alle-Kiski Valley, the number of water authorities that do and do not fluoridate is almost evenly split, with 12 fluoridating and 11 not. That tally will swing in favor of not fluoridating when Brackenridge and Ford City end the practice.
In order to stop adding fluoride, the Brackenridge must get state Department of Environmental Protection approval. Part of that process is adequately notifying the public about the proposed change and giving residents and health professionals the opportunity to comment.
Proof that they have done so is required to be submitted with their application.
For about nine months, the water authority has had a notice and comment form on its website, said Nick Colledge, head operator at the Brackenridge Borough Water Department.
“We’ve gotten one comment, and he was for stopping it,” he said.
Ford City requires no such approval since it will begin operating a completely new water plant.
Colledge said, in addition to the monetary savings, not having the liquid additive required to fluoridate water (hydrofluorosilicic acid) around would improve safety. The acid is highly corrosive and dangerous to work with, he said.
It could eat through leather work boots and it “disintegrated within a year” the metal cabinets located in the area where the additive is stored, he said.
It could be at least six months before there are any changes to the water supply, Colledge said.
It’s unclear how the move would affect the Fawn-Frazer Joint Water Authority, which buys water from Brackenridge. A supervisor there could not be reached for comment.
Pitt prof: No fluoride ‘a very bad idea’
Leading health organizations, including the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, support community water fluoridation based on the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence, which continues to establish that it is safe and effective.
Community water fluoridation has been shown to reduce tooth decay by 20 percent to 40 percent.
Dr. Robert Weyant, a dentist and associate dean of Dental Public Health and Outreach in the Pitt School of Dental Medicine said ending the fluoridation program in Brackenridge “is a very bad idea.”
“From a dental health perspective, it’s very effective in preventing a lot of decay. The numbers are pretty impressive,” he said. “For every dollar you spend putting fluoride in the water, you save $30 spent on dental decay.”
There are those opposed to fluoridated public water. They say the additive is dangerous.
A 2012 article in the medical journal Environmental Health Perspectives identified fluoride as a neurotoxin that affected brain development in children with overexposure.
Other studies have linked fluoride to early puberty in children, arthritis, bone damage and cancer.
However, there is just as much evidence in support of fluoride in the water.
The CDC concluded that studies have produced “no credible evidence” of an association between fluoridated drinking water and an increased risk for cancer.
Weyant said the fluoride fear is similar to the arguments against child vaccines.
“There couldn’t be clearer science that vaccines are safe, but people are coming up with concerns and fears,” he said. “The exact same thing has happened with fluoride. The arguments are not based in science. We’ve looked at this stuff over the years, and there’s nothing there.”