“If we’re going to fluoridate I think we should use the safest fluoride that we can,” said Councilman David Thomas. “If that’s pharmaceutical-grade fluoride, then we’ll have to use that.”
In a recent work meeting, city officials discussed a possible resolution against fluoridation. The majority of South Weber residents voted against fluoridation in the November 2000 countywide vote.
“You cannot use industrial fluoride because it has other toxins in it,” Thomas said. “It has lead. It has mercury and a bunch of other stuff in it.”
Lewis Garrett, health director of the Davis County Board of Health, said in a later interview that opponents of fluoridation have made a lot out of this supposed difference in the grade of fluoride.
“There really is no such thing as pharmaceutical-grade fluoride,” he said. “The fluoride ion, which is what causes the benefit to the teeth, is the same, regardless. It’s a chemical.”
The health department has carefully looked at the substances used to fluoridate water across the country, and we’ve limited the choices to the Davis County water systems to those approved by the approving bodies of the country and the standard chemicals that are used everywhere else in the country,” Garrett said.
The Board of Health has approved three compounds containing fluoride, substances that have met standards of purity, Garrett said.
“The one chemical that seems to have people upset is hydrofluorosilic acid,” Garrett said. “They tack on a name — industrial-grade fluoride. That’s a misnomer. It does contain some micro-contaminants, but they are in such small quantities that once it’s diluted in water at the proper concentration, you can’t even measure the micro-contaminants.”
Garrett said there is a small amount of arsenic in hydrofluorosilic acid, an extremely small amount.
“When you dilute that by a factor of 1 million, which is what you’re doing when you use it to fluoridate water, it dilutes to the point where it’s just not an issue,” Garrett said.
“In the case of lead and arsenic and all those other really scary-sounding words that get thrown around, we have actually analyzed the pre-fluoridation and post-fluoridation content of water that was fluoridated with hydrofluorosilic acid, and we can’t see a difference. It doesn’t go up enough to even measure,” Garrett said.
From well to well, naturally occurring arsenic varies more than the amount that would be contributed by fluoridating with hydrofluorosilic acid, Garrett said.
“We’ve got variations in fluoride, variations in lead, and variations in arsenic,” he said. ” But in all cases, they’re below the MCLs (maximum contaminant levels), which are very conservative safety maximums.”
In a newsletter written in 2001, Mayor Joseph Gertge informed city residents that fluoridation would be costly. “We know, to implement this mandate, we will be required to construct a building for the equipment at a cost of over $150,000. Other costs will exceed $35,000 annually,” he wrote.
Using a different grade of fluoride would escalate costs for South Weber, officials said.
“I would love to bill the Davis County Board of Health,” Thomas said. “They’re the ones that came out and told us it was going to cost South Weber $10,000 a year. It’ll cost us a lot more. I think we should bill them the difference, because they knew at the outset that it was going to cost more.”
Garrett said the Board of Health, prior to the November 2000 election, put out a cost estimate that was based on the number of wells that each city had to fluoridate, average cost per well, and the average cost of the chemical based on national standards, and what people throughout the country pay.
The costs were identified as estimates, Garrett said, and the board cannot control the costs incurred by the cities. Each city has the choice of which chemical to use, he said, whether to put in “a Chevy Nova pump, or a Cadillac pump.”
South Weber city officials are investigating the costs of using a higher grade of fluoride.
“If people had known at the time of the vote how much it was really going to cost, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation,” Thomas said.