The Tri-Cities Health Care Task Force plans to ask the Kennewick City Council next month to consider fluoridating the city’s water supply.
Kennewick water already has 0.2 parts per million fluoride naturally, but dentists and other health care professionals want to increase fluoride to 1.0 parts per million, the optimal level to protect teeth.
“It will reduce dental (cavities) in children 65 percent,” said Kennewick pediatric dentist Larry Loveridge. “It’s also beneficial for adults and seniors.”
The task force wants the council to consider the matter before the end of the year to take advantage of the Washington Dental Service Foundation’s interest in increasing fluoride in Kennewick water. Grant money for the project appears to be available in 2001 but less sure in 2002, said task force member Harry Clemmons.
Although fluoridation would not require a public vote, voters in Kennewick favor it, according to a survey done by the Washington Dental Service.
About 78 percent of 250 registered voters said in May that they supported a decision “to adjust the natural level of fluoride in the city’s water supply to reduce oral health disease” if grants were available to pay startup costs.
Eleven percent said they would oppose it, and 10 percent said they did not know.
Given more information, the percentage in favor increased to
The foundation is interested in helping Kennewick add fluoride to its water supply because it has one of the highest levels of tooth decay in the state, Loveridge said. In addition, the city’s water system lends itself to fluoridation more easily than cities with a greater number of water sources. Kennewick gets most of its water from the Columbia River.
Preliminary numbers show that startup costs would be $400,000 to $450,000, said Pasco dentist Spence Jilek, who also is on the task force.
The foundation is interested in donating that money, just as it helped Pasco to fluoridate its water supply last year. The foundation also might supply the fluoride for a year or two.
“This is a wonderful offer,” Loveridge said. Once the system is in place, fluoridating the water would cost about 5 cents per person per month.
Now, children from 6 months to 15 years on the Kennewick city water supply should be taking fluoride tablets or drops to protect their teeth, Loveridge said. Richland also has inadequate fluoride in its water supply, and children there need to take supplements to meet dental health standards.
Almost two-thirds of the people in the United States drink water fluoridated to dental standards. About half of those drink water with fluoride occurring naturally, and the other third drink from water supplies with fluoride added. In 10 states, added fluoride is mandated by their legislatures.
The list of medical and scientific organizations that support fluoridation and consider it safe is long. It includes the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences.
Fluoridation is supported not only by organizations that deal with children’s issues, such as the National PTA but also organizations concerned with health of the elderly, such as the Alzheimer’s Association.
Fluoride can reduce cavities in adults up to 35 percent and decrease gum disease, Loveridge said. But it’s especially helpful in preventing the cavities elderly people get along their roots as their gums recede, he said. It also strengthens bones.
Too much fluoride can cause staining and discoloration of the teeth, but amounts proposed for Kennewick should not cause a problem, Loveridge said.
Contrary to what opponents claim, “fluoride is fluoride,” and there is no difference chemically between fluoride that occurs naturally in water and that which would be added, he said.
He also discounted claims that fluoride is poisonous. Many useful substances are harmful in large amounts, he said. For instance, chlorine commonly is used in small amounts to kill bacteria in water, but chlorine gas was used as a weapon in World War I.
“There is no known case of a true allergy to fluoride,” Loveridge said. In fact, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology supports fluoridation.
By adding fluoride to Kennewick water, Kennewick families should save money, Loveridge said. They should reduce dental costs in their own family, and fewer tax dollars should need to be spent paying to treat the teeth of poor children.
“There’s just no question fluoridation would benefit our community significantly,” he said.
For information on fluoride levels in Benton, Franklin and Umatilla county communities, go to http://bfdhd.ourwest.com/
terms/infoFluoride.html on the Internet.