Friday is the deadline for customers of the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District to participate in a mail-in survey on whether they want their drinking water fluoridated.
The survey was mailed out to the approximately 3,100 property owners the water district serves, and so far about 800 households have responded, said Kit Hamby, district manager, on Wednesday. A third-party consulting firm is tabulating the responses and hasn’t told Hamby anything beyond that so as to not taint the process.
The results should be ready by the middle of the month and will be presented to the water board at its regular meeting Oct. 21. While the board, which voted in July to stop adding fluoride to its water, could reconsider its decision based on the results, it won’t be required to, Hamby said.
The board began reconsidering fluoridation after the Environmental Protection Agency released new guidelines for the practice this spring, reducing its recommended dosage to the level Snowmass already was adhering to. Board member David Dawson, who championed the policy change, said it came onto the board’s radar as more people began coming forward with concerns.
Dawson runs a water purification business and said he often gets asked about how to remove fluoride from water. His stance is that residents who want fluoride can ingest it in other ways and the public shouldn’t be left without a choice.
“There’s a lot of new science, a lot of new evidence, that there are potentially harmful effects, and some studies, they absolutely make the statement there are very harmful effects,” he said.
But many customers and local health experts disagree and have been campaigning to get the vote reversed. A group of local oral health professionals, led by Snowmass Village dentist Karina Redko, have taken out full-page ads in The Aspen Times filled with evidence supporting public water fluoridation.
“I have researched both sides of this extensively, and there is no valid science whatsoever that fluoride is harmful for us in the doses that we are receiving it in the water,” Redko told The Aspen Times this summer.
Pro-fluoride proponents make a similar argument to Dawson’s that the public should have a choice — but they favor households that don’t want fluoride investing in reverse osmosis systems or other removal methods. Families who don’t have the means to invest in something such as that also are likely to not have the resources to adequately care for their oral health, said Dr. Kimberly Levin, Pitkin County medical officer.
“They have a choice,” she said. “There are devices to take fluoride out of your water. … Don’t take it away from people who don’t have the means to make that choice.”
Resources for information on fluoride are vast, although Levin cautions against some studies referenced on the Internet that aren’t reliable. However, Cris Dawson, Dawson’s wife and also a fluoride opponent, said health experts are relying on outdated information, and that new evidence shows the practice is harmful. Many of the Dawson family’s neighbors and friends have thanked them for leading the charge, she said.
While the Dawsons have a strong view on the subject, David, who made the motion to conduct the survey, said he’s open to hearing what customers have to say.
To help customers make an educated assessment, Snowmass Water and Sanitation has posted video footage from a forum in Denver discussing the very same topic on its website. Denver Water recruited three professionals supporting each viewpoint to speak at the forum, after which its board ultimately voted in favor of fluoridation.
Customers also can comment in a survey on the district’s website, but those results won’t be tabulated with the mail-in responses, Hamby said.
For more information, visit www.swsd.org.