“Why should we impose it on people?” Fluoride Action Network director Paul Connett said.
Denver is the latest target of a campaign that in the past five years has persuaded 200 cities worldwide — including Snowmass Village, Pagosa Springs, Palisade and Montrose — to stop adding fluoride to water.
Water board members told the roughly 130 activists who packed a hearing that they are reviewing current practices and will make a decision by Aug. 26.
The campaign run by FAN and “We Are Change Colorado” has gained enough traction that Colorado public health director Larry Wolk and Gov. John Hickenlooper launched a counter-attack before the hearing. They issued a statement recommending that all communities add fluoride to water supplies.
Today about 72 percent of Coloradans on municipal systems receive water containing natural or added fluoride.
“More than 70 years of research has proven that community water fluoridation is a safe, effective and inexpensive method of improving the oral health of all Coloradans,” their statement said.
Activists contend fluoride is “neurotoxic” and weakens bones. They say children are grossly over-exposed. Too much sugar, not lack of fluoride, is the problem, Connett said. They denounced government assertions that fluoride is necessary to prevent tooth decay as propaganda.
Since the 1950s, utilities have been adding fluoride — even in Denver, where raw water naturally contains fluoride. (Aurora Water does not add fluoride for that reason.) Denver Water since 2011 has added fluoride to maintain a concentration of 0.7 milligrams per liter.
In April, federal health officials changed the national standard for the first time since 1962, citing recent studies finding people get fluoride from other sources such as toothpaste. Instead of a range between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter, the feds now recommend a concentration of 0.7 milligrams per liter.
State dental director Katya Mauritson cited a 2005 state study that found adding fluoride saves residents $61 a year for dental care at a cost of less than $2 per customer to utilities.
“Dental disease places a significant burden on our state. Students miss school, workers are less productive and many Coloradans suffer needlessly,” Mauritson said. “Colorado communities that fluoridate their water supplies can reduce their residents’ cavities by as much as 40 percent.”