Communities across Colorado, including Snowmass Village and now Denver, are re-evaluating their policies on drinking water fluoridation, prompting the Governor’s Office to throw its support behind the practice Wednesday.
After the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lowered the dosage it recommends for public water systems this spring, communities throughout the state began to reconsider their policies. The Snowmass Water and Sanitation District voted July 17 to discontinue the practice entirely, and on Wednesday, Denver Water was set to hold a public information session on fluoridation for its board.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment made their stance known in a statement released Wednesday morning.
“The Governor’s Office and Department of Public Health and Environment recommend all Colorado communities fluoridate their public water supplies,” the statement said. “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. Increasing the number of communities that voluntarily fluoridate their residents’ water can make a significant contribution to Colorado’s commitment to becoming the healthiest state in the nation.
“Dental disease places a significant burden on our state. Students miss school, workers are less productive and many Coloradans suffer needlessly from preventable dental disease. Colorado communities that fluoridate their water supplies can reduce their resident’s cavities by as much as 40 percent and save them each an average of $61 per year in dental costs for an investment of just $1 to $2 per person per year.”
The state’s guidelines match those of the federal government, which now recommend fluoridating public water supplies to 0.7 milligrams per liter. Snowmass water was already fluoridated to that level before the recommendations were changed, as is the city of Aspen’s.
The statement was released in response to the localized discussions taking place, said David Brendsel, a communications specialist in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“Some communities are reevaluating their fluoridation practices because of the new HHS and CDPHE recommendations, including Snowmass and Denver,” Brendsel said. “We know that 70 years of research proves community water fluoridation is safe and effective, and it is our responsibility to state our support of fluoridation as a proven method of improving oral health.”
A blog post on the website for the activist organization “We Are Change” said the Denver information session was scheduled following the release of the new federal recommendations and pressure from We Are Change Colorado. The session was to include presentations from opponents and supporters, but the board was not expected to make any policy decisions Wednesday, according to Denver Water’s website.
As of 2012, 72.4 percent of Colorado residents served by public water systems were receiving fluoridated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen and Glenwood Springs fluoridate their water systems. A new water treatment plant is being built in Rifle, and local health officials have approached the city council there about starting to fluoridate.
While the board of directors is the policymaking body for the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District, the mayor of Snowmass Village as well as some residents and board members have said they want to have another discussion on fluoridation and involve more members of the community.