Let’s forgo the argument about whether ingesting fluoride is good for one’s teeth. Let’s just assume it is. Plenty of dentists and other health officials say it is.
But whether fluoride is good for teeth isn’t the right question for the DeLand City Commission. The City Commission comprises a physical-therapist assistant, a restaurant owner, a retired transportation training officer, a lawyer and an educator.
They can hardly be expected to decide who’s right, between the equally passionate pro-fluoride and anti-fluoride camps. There are doctors on both sides, by the way.
The proper question for the DeLand City Commission to answer is whether it is a good idea to spend taxpayer money to fluoridate the city water.
And the proper answer is no.
Residents of DeLand already ingest fluoride from all kinds of sources. Some fluoride occurs naturally in most water, so anything made with water is likely to have some fluoride in it.
Deltona’s city water has between .017 and .21 milligrams of naturally occurring fluoride per liter. That’s a good start. Health officials recommend that a public water supply contain no more than .7 milligrams per liter.
Where can people make up the difference between the naturally occurring fluoride in their water, and the optimum amount for teeth?
Well, how about french fries? They contain fluoride. So do beer and wine, infant formula, baby food and juice. And, don’t forget toothpaste.
A 1999 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that 70 percent of the soda drinks tested by the researchers “had fluoride levels exceeding 0.60 ppm, which is considered to contain sufficient fluoride so that dietary fluoride supplements are contraindicated.”
Public-health officials, recognizing that people nowadays are getting fluoride from many sources other than their city water, recently lowered the recommended maximum amount for public water supplies.
DeLand is the only water supplier in West Volusia that adds fluoride to its water, although most city suppliers in East Volusia add it. However, among the 56 small and large, private and public, water systems in Volusia County, only eight add fluoride, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There’s also the danger to city employees to consider. Fluorosilicic acid, which DeLand uses to fluoridate its water, is extremely toxic. In 1994, when a tanker truck spilled 4,500 gallons of the stuff on Interstate 4 near Deltona, 2,300 people had to be evacuated, and more than 50 people went to the hospital complaining of effects from the fumes. Even a teaspoon can be a lethal dose, according to a 2001 report for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Then, there’s the cost. DeLand estimates it spends about $75,000 a year fluoridating the city water.
So, let’s review. Municipal water fluoridation, while common, isn’t universal (it isn’t even common in West Volusia). People, including children, have many commonly available, inexpensive sources for fluoride. Some residents object strenuously to the addition of fluoride to their water, and are forced to pay to filter it out. There is a danger to city employees. DeLand is stretching every dollar to try to provide basic services to city residents.
Even fluoride proponents should agree that municipal water fluoridation is no longer good public policy.