No matter what the city of Rifle decides to do — whether or not to add fluoride to the drinking water supply — somebody is going to be upset.
Exactly one year ago, the issue came up before council after equipment used to add fluoride to the water broke down. Rifle City Council members received input on both the pros and cons of fluoride and decided to continue with the fluoridation.
In the past year, no fluoride has been added to the water at the city’s main Graham Mesa treatment plant on the north side of Rifle, which processes the majority of the city’s drinking water, according to public works director Bill Sappington. The smaller Beaver Creek water treatment plant in south Rifle has been fluoridating its water.
Despite the city council’s decision last year to reinstate fluoridation of the water, Sappington said the city was unable to get the proper equipment installed and is working with the Colorado Department of Health to ensure it meets design standards. The cost of the equipment needed was also not in the city’s budget.
Opponents to fluoridation say there are numerous studies and scientific reports about the dangers of fluoride as a toxic chemical and link to serious diseases.
Proponents of fluoridating community drinking water, including the American Dental Association and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, insist that the process is beneficial, safe and helps prevent tooth decay, especially in young children or low-income families who might not otherwise receive proper dental care.
The bottom line is: Who is right and who is wrong?
The issue has now come up again and council has to decide, once again, whether or not to reinstate fluoridation of Rifle’s drinking water.
City employees, community members against fluoridation
“Fluoridation is a voluntary practice that is not required (by law),” said Brian Ulve, senior operator at Rifle’s water treatment plant. “To me, there are so many levels. (Fluoride) is a toxin — it’s a hazardous waste.”
Ulve expressed concern over the city being responsible for “mass medication” and ensuring that the chemical is administered at the proper dosage.
“Do we want to be in the business of medical care?” he asked. “Fluoride is not effective ingested — it has to be topically applied. Ingesting it is a big hoax as far as I’m concerned.”
Ulve added that there have been scientific studies linking fluoride toxicity to serious health problems.
“It accumulates in your bones and there are all kinds of links — from Alzheimer’s to cancer,” he said. “To me, it’s the health issues and mass medication that concerns me the most.”
Fluoridating the water again would cost the city between $80,000 and $100,000.
The benefits of fluoridation
Despite the reports of the harmful effects of fluoridation, the American Dental Association stands by its endorsement of fluoridating community water supplies.
“Studies conducted throughout the past 60 years have consistently indicated that fluoridation of community water supplies is safe and effective in preventing dental decay in both children and adults,” an ADA statement reads. “This support has been the Association’s position since policy was first adopted in 1950. The ADA’s policies regarding community water fluoridation are based on the overwhelming weight of peer-reviewed, credible, scientific evidence.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also firmly stands in favor of fluoridating community water and says there have been no substantiated reports showing that treating water with fluoride is harmful.
“The Department of Health supports fluoridation of community water supplies and encourages and highly supports cities tweaking their water so they have adequate fluoride levels,” said Diane Brunson, director of the CDPHE Oral Health Program. “There are no replicated studies showing that fluoride in concentration levels in Colorado (.9 to 1.1 parts per million) has any adverse health effects. To date, there have never been any adverse health effects at the level we fluoridate.”
Currently about 74 percent of communities in Colorado fluoridate their water, Brunson said.
A city council decision?
In light of conflicting reports, city officials are now faced with a tough decision: whether or not to fluoridate the city’s water.
While no action was taken at the workshop, council members voiced their opinions based on what they’d heard so far, but said they wanted to hear more before making any decisions.
Citizens wanting to voice their opinions on the subject can call the public works department at 625-6223 or leave a message for their city officials at 625-2121.
Information both for and against water fluoridation can be found at several Web sites, including www.ada.org/goto/flouride; www.nofluoride.com; and www.fluoridation.org.