Texas Woman’s University students Taylor McGehee and Jennifer Kotlik plan to present a proposal to the Gainesville City Council to request an increase in the levels of fluoride for Gainesville’s water.
The proposal is part of the students’ assignment to do a community project for their TWU Community Oral Health Class.
McGehee said that they read Gainesville’s 2009 annual drinking water quality report listing current fl uoride averages of 0.15 parts-per-million (ppm). Students compared this with the recommended level of 0.7 ppm by the U.S. Public Health Service Center for Disease Control.
Gainesville city manager Barry Sullivan said that Gainesville’s water is rated Superior according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and has received the Texas Optimization Program (TOPS) award for surface water. Sullivan said only 11 cities in the state have received the TOPS award.
“The fluoride in our water system is from a natural formation,” Sullivan said. “Everything that is required in our water is there and not over the limit. It has received a Superior rating from TCEQ. The way fluoride is regulated is that we cannot have over a certain amount. The maximum allowance for fluoride is 4.0 ppm.”
McGehee and Kotlik reported that according to the American Dental Association, studies today prove that water fluoridation is effective in reducing tooth decay 20 to 40 percent even with other sources of fluoride that are available.
“Fluoride is a very inexpensive way to help prevent dental decay, which Gainesville is in a very high need for,” stated McGehee and Kotlik. “It is important that the community be aware of the opportunity to obtain fluoride in their water and know how helpful it can be.”
“Fluoride is a hydrofluoric acid,” Sullivan said. “It is dangerous to work with. It has to be taken out of a barrel. Rubber gloves, rubber boots and an apron have to be worn, almost like a hazmat suit. The acid eats up equipment that has to then be replaced.”
“We have spoken to the Texas Fluoridation Project and they can provide equipment grants if funds are available and train the operators on the operation of the fluoridation equipment prior to start up,” McGehee and Kotlik stated. “The equipment grants include testing and safety equipment.”
The students said that according to the Texas Fluoridation Project, Gainesville’s water was fluoridated during the 1990s and that the city had received a grant and the equipment was provided by the fluoridation project.
Sullivan said that the acid “ate up the equipment” and that it costs about $80,000 to start up. “The Texas Fluoridation Project once provided cost estimates for equipment but never the equipment.”
McGehee and Kotlic reported that of the 50 largest cities in the United States 42 have community water fluoridation. However, concerns about the effects of fluoridated water have lobbyists for and against fluoridation pressuring Austin City Council members. According to an article published by Community Impact Newspaper, Austin currently has fluoride added to the public water and if the Austin City Council overturns that policy, then since Austin is a major city and the state capital, it could have national ramifications.
“Children drinking the (fluoridated) water is good for the enamel,” said Risa Record, DDS of Gainesville Family Dentistry. “If they add it at a good level, it’s enough to be beneficial and not harmful for children. Children under 2 (years old) should be drinking bottle water.”
Record said that fluoridated water would be “beneficial as a whole for the community.”
“The use of fluoride is a personal decision,” Sullivan said. “There are additional ways to supplement fluoride than through the water supply.”
McGehee and Kotlic plan to educate the community by distributing flyers and then to start a petition.
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