Libertarians, anti-communists and holistic dentists alike have formed an unlikely team to take a gulp at one of Denver’s lesser chewed on policy issues: fluoride in the water.
On Tuesday, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners voted in favor of upholding Denver Water’s long-running practice of community water fluoridation, enriching the level of fluoride in public water to the U.S. Public Health Service’s recommended 0.7 milligrams per liter.
In response to the vote’s outcome, many have taken to the Internet to voice their concerns about the potential harms of public water fluoridation. While some are strictly concerned with the chemical’s medical implications, others view water fluoridation as an issue of ethics, freedom of choice or environmental protection — and a few have even worried that municipal water fluoridation is a government conspiracy.
This pushback followed a July 29 public forum held by the Denver Water Board, in which presentations were given both for and against fluoridation.
The Denver Board of Water Commissioners vote for fluoride mirrored a statement from Gov. John Hickenlooper in July, who came out strongly in support of community water fluoridation.
The Governor’s stance is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which states that fluoridation has been shown to reduce tooth decay by roughly 25 percent in both children and adults.
Similarly, a 2005 study cited by state dental director Katya Mauritson suggests that fluoridated water can reduce Colorado residents’ cavities by nearly 40 percent.
Much like the CDC, the United States Public Health Service has enthusiastically endorsed fluoridation of tap water since the 1950’s as a fair and affordable way to prevent tooth decay.
Several other organizations — including the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and World Health Organization — also recommend community water fluoridation, citing it as a cost-effective way to promote oral health.
“Community water fluoridation provides dental health benefits across all socioeconomic communities in a predictable and uniform manner”, said Denver Water Commissioner Penfield Tate, another proponent of fluoridated tap water, in a release.
However, skeptics of community water fluoridation continue to voice their fears: Organizations like the Fluoride Action Network and Fluoride Free Colorado oppose Denver Water’s practice insisting that community fluoridation is a medical, ethical and environmental problem.
Take Alan Green, champion of what he calls “holistic dentistry.” Green thinks individuals should get to choose what drugs go into their bodies. Like many who challenge Denver Water’s policy, Green is concerned with both the medical and ethical repercussions of community water fluoridation.
In addition to being positively linked with bone cancer, said Green, fluoride in community water poses an ethical conundrum: “Here you are, in a sense, putting a medicine in the tap water… There is no informed consent.”
Several communities throughout the state, including Montrose, Colorado Springs, Palisade, and Delta currently reject water fluoridation. Around 72 percent of municipal Coloradans receive water with either natural or added fluoride.
In the meantime, Denver Water is on track to continue the practice in light of Tuesday’s vote, and anti-fluoride activists in Denver will just have to grin and bear it.