Brockton’s public drinking water naturally has about 0.3 parts per million of the mineral fluoride. Adding fluoride would raise that to the federally recommended 0.7 parts per million. That’s what a volunteer group of citizens, One Smile Brockton, wants the city to do.
Forty-four years after Brockton’s Board of Health voted to add fluoride to the city’s drinking water to improve dental health, it still hasn’t happened. Now another group of citizens, and the City Council, are again trying to make it happen. We certainly support their effort.
We now have decades of experience demonstrating that fluoridating public drinking water supplies hardens the enamel on teeth and reduces cavities in kids and adults. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named the addition of fluoride into drinking water one of the Top 10 public health developments of the last century, placing it in the same category as vaccination and control of infectious disease. Seven out of 10 people in Massachusetts drink water to which fluoride has been added; 75 percent of people nationwide drink fluoridated water.
Fluoride is a mineral that is naturally present in small amounts in just about all drinking water. The fluoride added at water treatment plants brings the level of fluoride up to a therapeutic level sufficient to impede the development of dental caries. When it was introduced, starting in 1945 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, drinking water was about the only way kids and adults got fluoride. It is now added to toothpaste, mouthwash and even bubble gum. You can get too much fluoride now, and dentists began noting teens with brown and blue stains on their teeth from an excess of fluoride. That was part of the reason the federal government last year reduced its recommendation for fluoride in drinking water from 1.2 parts per million to 0.7 parts per million.
Brockton’s water naturally has about 0.3 parts per million of fluoride. Adding fluoride would raise that to the recommended 0.7 parts per million. That’s what a volunteer citizens group, called One Smile Brockton, wants to do. “It’s a proven, safe and cost-effective way to promote strong teeth for everyone,” said Maria Mendes, chief organizer for the group. The City Council agrees. Council members voted unanimously last week to support the Board of Health’s effort to get state money to pay the entire $40,000 to $60,000 startup cost for installing fluoridation equipment. It appears a near certainty that the state would pay that startup cost.
Additionally, it will cost $40,000 to $60,000 a year for chemicals and maintenance of the fluoridation equipment, according to One Smile Brockton. The city’s chief financial officer, John Condon, put that figure at up to $100,000 a year. He said the Water Department does not now have the revenue to pay for presently needed maintenance and to purchase major new equipment. We suggest that an agency with the budget of the Water Department, and a city the size of Brockton, can between them come up with some way to finally move ahead with a major health improvement for the entire city population.
We know there are people who disagree with adding anything to drinking water, and we respect their right to have that opinion. We do, however, feel that decades of experience from Maine to California have demonstrated that fluoridation is safe and effective. It is time for Brockton to get on with this.