POTTSTOWN — There are only nine water systems in all of Southeast Pennsylvania that add fluoride to their water and Pottstown is one of them.
In fact, Pottstown is the only water system in Montgomery County that adds fluoride.
That may soon change and Montgomery County may become a “fluoride-free zone.”
In the midst of wrestling with a difficult budget, the subject of eliminating the fluoride from the public water for customers in Pottstown, West Pottsgrove, Upper Pottsgrove, Lower Pottsgrove and West Coventry was broached.
The move would save $32,000 out of a 2009 budget that may require a rate increase to close a 13 percent deficit between revenues and expenses.
While the decision may be made for financial reasons, members of the Pottstown Borough Authority have recognized that they may have a tiger by the tail in addressing this issue. For years, advocates on both sides of the issue have battled over whether the addition of fluoride is a public health boon or bane. A quick trip to the Internet reveals megabytes of information with both sides claiming to have a basis in scientific fact.
For example, the “Fluoride Information Network” has a headline screaming “anti-fluoride distortions revealed” and goes on to talk about the benefits to dental health.
Scroll down a bit and you’ll find the Environmental Health News reporting that “Chinese children drinking water with very high levels of fluoride scored poorly on intelligence testing compared to those with lower exposures.”
Begun as far back as 1945, adding fluoride to water to prevent cavities is credited with a 50 to 60 percent reduction in tooth decay since World War II, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which endorses the practice, and the American Dental Association.
Some studies have linked fluoride with bone damage, lower IQ in children and even a rare form of cancer called osteosarcoma in young boys.
“There are pro and anti-fluoride people throughout the country,” said Ronald Downie, chairman of the borough authority.
Taking the step to remove it would be “a public relations issue to be sure,” said Tom Weld, the BCM engineer who advises the authority on technical matters.
“I’ve never been an advocate of adding fluoride to the water,” said board member Don Read. “I would like to see if it’s something we want to continue to do.”
“Well my dentist is telling me I need all the fluoride I can get,” replied authority member Aram Ecker.
No decisions have been made, although the subject may be raised again — at least in a budget context — at the next authority meeting, scheduled for Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. in borough hall.