The Tahlequah Public Works Authority Board of Trustees heard from a group of local residents – the Tahlequah Fluoride Removal Alliance – during Friday’s regular meeting.
Jay Smith provided printed material to board members and discussed the group’s concern about water fluoridation, which the Centers for Disease Control has acknowledged as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Smith told the TPWA board there is a large and growing body of research that raises questions about the health risks and dangers involved with regular ingestion of fluoridated water, for both adults and children.
“Given the research, should we be putting our children and our neighbors at risk for a practice that causes more harm than it does good?” he asked. “So an important question to you, the board, is, ‘have you completed an analysis of the materials from the tanker before it is diluted into the water system?’ We would like this question, along with others about the cost of adding fluoride [answered]. We’re presenting you with a request for documents under the Public Records Act, and we would appreciate a response at your next board meeting.”
Smith’s prepared statement questioned the integrity of the fluoride, or hydrofluoric acid, that TPWA adds to its water system.
“There is no safe level, and it needs to be removed from our water completely,” he said. “That is our goal.”
To comply with Environmental Protection Agency and Oklahoma Department of Environment Quality standards regulating water fluoridation, TPWA conducts random tests to main an average fluoride level of 0.9 parts per million. The EPA maximum contaminant level goal is 4.0 and the secondary standard guideline is 2.0, as was reported in previous Daily Press stories on the topic. Test results for the fluoride levels from January 2012 through January 2013 show the average is 0.893 ppm.
“Our No. 1 concern is for the safety of our residents and complying with applicable standards and guidelines set by the Oklahoma DEQ and the federal EPA,” said TPWA General Manager Mike Doublehead at the time. “Those are the standards which we strive each and every day to meet.”
TPWA Water Plant Supervisor Jerry Linn told Smith and the other TFRA members three water samples are taken and tested every day.
“We generally get a range around 0.8 to 0.9. Fluoride does not fluctuate that much,” he said. “It’s a pretty constant range.”
Smith interrupted Linn’s explanation, saying a TPWA consumer confidence report showed a range of 1.7 to 1.2 over a period of a year or six months.
Linn explained the sample taken for the consumer confidence report is for a monthly report and may show a difference in range.
“Those samples are taken only once a month that we send out for outside testing, and it may fluctuate,” he said.
Another TFRA member, Sand Mueller, has 40-years’ experience as a horticulturist. He has first-hand knowledge of toxic materials, and produced material safety data sheets pointing out the LD 50 of materials, which is the lethal dose that is sufficient to kill mammals.
“The LD 50 of fluoride is 71, which puts it in the range of many of the more toxic chemicals I ever used,” he said. “It is a dangerous material, and we ask you sincerely from your hearts look at this material. Sincerely for all our people of the community, please, please remove it from our water.”
TFRA inquired about the source of the fluoride that TPWA uses. Randy Dye, field representative and water treatment chemist for BrennTag Southwest, answered a number of questions.
“The product that we supply is hydrofluoric acid. It is an approved product by the National Sanitation Foundation for the maximum levels that are listed, and the system stays within those limits,” he said.
“The governing entities that overlook water quality specify NSF approval requirements for water treatment chemicals and this product falls within those guidelines. Our facility repackages and so forth under NSF guidelines. It’s purchased all the way through National Sanitation Foundation as a complete tracking system from the manufacturer point to distribution to the user. It’s documented. It’s recorded. That information is available.”
Two medical professionals were also on hand for Friday’s meeting to discuss water fluoridation. Retired Tahlequah dentist Charles Carroll described the water system conditions when he first began practicing in the area in 1959, and noted seeing a difference in his young patients when the practice of adding fluoride to drinking water started.
“I consider myself an expert in tooth decay from exposure,” said Carroll. “I used to see children with totally bombed-out teeth. After they fluoridated the water, the kids’ teeth began to be better. After about six years, the decay rate dropped dramatically.”
Board-certified allergy and immunology specialist Dr. Laura Koehn, who grew up in Adair County, said while in medical school, she learned the local area was known nationally for tooth decay.
“As an allergist, I’m well aware of the toxic effects of many chemicals, and there’s no question that we use way too many chemicals in our environment. But the idea that no fluoride is best, we’re never going to get there because most ground water has fluoride naturally occurring in it,” she said.