RIFLE — To fluoridate or not to fluoridate?
Ten years after the city decided not to add fluoride to its water, the issue was the subject of a workshop presentation before Rifle City Council members at a workshop before the March 4 meeting.
No action was taken, but Council expects to look at it again in the near future.
The city of Rifle does not fluoridate its water.
A new water treatment plant is under construction, and if the city decides to add fluoride to the water, additional equipment will need to be included.
“We’re looking at the costs,” said Mayor Randy Winkler. “We get natural fluoride from the Colorado River, but it could cost $200,000 if we add fluoride to the water treatment plant. Right now, staff is looking into it.”
The subject was a controversial issue in 2005 when City Council members decided not to fluoridate Rifle’s tap water. But pediatricians and dentists are now saying that they are seeing increased cases of cavities in children and that fluoride should be added to the water to help prevent dental problems.
Dr. Colby Quintenz, a pediatrician at Grand River Health in Rifle, made a presentation at the recent council workshop and asked council members to reconsider the ‘05 decision.
“I’ve been a practicing physician for nine years in Glenwood Springs and moved to Rifle last summer,” Quintenz said. “I’ve noticed how much worse people’s teeth were than in Glenwood Springs.”
Cavities, which may seem like a small annoyance, can actually become part of a larger problem in a person’s health, such as heart disease.
“Cavities are a sign of an infection,” Quintenz said. “And it’s especially not good for kids.”
Dr. Jack Davis, a dentist in Rifle, agrees.
“This area has a high cavity rate,” Davis said. “Fluoride makes the tooth enamel harder. The body can’t make fluoride.”
Fluoride has plenty of foes, though.
Former longtime mayor and current New Castle City Councilor Frank Breslin opposes adding fluoride to municipal drinking water and, in fact, calls it a “poison.”
“Fluoride may help some people who have a terrible diet, but it’s not benefiting everyone,” Breslin said. “It’s a poison and a danger to the people in the public works department who have to handle it.”
The issue of adding fluoride to municipal drinking water has been an issue around the state and the country.
In Breckenridge, an anti-fluoride group recently challenged the Town Council, urging repeal the town’s fluoridation practice. One resident called it “mass medication without consent.”
However, the council decided to continue with the fluoridation, saying that it was a “cost-effective way of preventing tooth decay, particularly for residents without access to full dental care.”
More than 200 small cities and towns around the country have opted not to fluoridate their water since 2008, after government reports cautioning the public about excessive fluoride.
The process has been in use since the 1940s, and an Atlantic article notes that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hail it as one of the top preventative public health measures of all time.”
“When it was initiated in the middle of the 20th century, rates of dental cavities fell by 50 percent or higher, arguably because of fluoride. But opposition groups, notably the Fluoride Action Network, a nonprofit dedicated to fluoride-danger awareness, put forth a much darker picture. They say the effect of tap water fluoride on tooth decay is hard to pinpoint, and in a large enough quantity, fluoride is a toxin — one that can possibly make bones fragile, lower IQ in children, and contribute to bone cancer.”
Quintenz, along with more than 45 other Grand River Health physicians and local dentists in the Rifle area, maintain that the addition of fluoride to the water is beneficial.
“Every primary care physician who practices in Rifle supports fluoridation, as well as every dentist,” Quintenz said.