An organization aimed at raising awareness about the impact of fluoride exposure recently released a report saying some water systems in West Texas are not properly warning consumers about the dangers of fluoride-contaminated water.
But a Texas Tech professor said groups like that are sometimes off base. And, at least one of the cities listed in that report says it has been notifying its residents annually as part of its Consumer Confidence Report, although the fluoride advocacy group contests that fact.
West Texas cities cited in the Fluoride Action Network study include Abernathy with 2.51 parts per million, Brownfield with 2.12, Hale Center with 3.2, Idalou with 2.6 and Shallowater with 2.17.
“Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally and is released from rocks into the soil, water, and air. Almost all water contains some level of fluoride,” said Brian McGovern, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “Fluoride can also be added to drinking water supplies as a public health measure for reducing cavities.”
Requirements established by the Environmental Protection Agency state the maximum contaminant level for fluoride is around four parts per million and the secondary constituent level is around two parts per million, according to information provided by McGovern. Anything between two and four parts per million is considered to only have cosmetic effects to teeth, such as white or brown stains on the teeth of children younger than nine years old.
Any water system with more than two parts per million of fluoride is required to notify its consumers annually by July 1 about the dental hygiene effects, while the notice for water systems with more than four parts per million requires a notice about long-term health effects, such as bone disease or pain and tenderness of the bones.
David Klein, associate professor at Texas Tech’s department of environmental toxicology, said there is “horrible misinformation” about fluoride since the chemical does have some positive attributes.
“If you go back and look at why did people put fluoride in water, it’s because they went to areas of West Texas where there was relativity high natural fluoride and people didn’t have cavities,” Klein said. “It’s important to have fluoride because everything you put in your mouth for dental hygiene has fluoride.”
Michael Connett, executive director of the Fluoride Action Network, or FAN, agreed there’s misinformation on both sides about the fluoride debate.
“At FAN, however, we take very seriously our mission to present the latest, most credible information about fluoride so that citizens and policymakers alike can make better, more informed decisions about how to handle fluoride safely,” Connett said. “While we are used to being criticized for challenging entrenched medical orthodoxy on fluoride’s use in dentistry, the relevant, undisputed fact for this story is that Texas families receiving water contaminated with high levels of fluoride were not notified for years of the risks this poses to their children, despite federal and state regulations requiring that such notifications be provided.”
The Flouride Action Network says Texas has placed children at risk of dental problems, according to a news release.
“FAN’s investigation reveals that Texas water systems with more than (about two parts per million) fluoride have consistently failed to provide the federally-required warnings, dating as far back as 2000,” according to a news release.
But, at least one of the 17 cities listed as being noncompliant says it does notify its consumers as required.
Mike Grimsley, water/sewer director for the City of Abernathy, said last year’s fluoride levels were above the 2 parts per million standard and the city does send out notices of water contaminant levels every year.
Grimsley said the city last week sent out a notice about the water system’s fluoride levels in a consumer Confidence Report.
Although Abernathy’s notice last year included information about the amount of fluoride, it did not include information about dental hygiene effects from levels greater than two parts per million.
“Abernathy’s (Consumer Confidence Report goes) back to 2009, and each and every one … fails to provide the fluoride notification,” Connett said. “Abernathy’s violation is a longstanding one.”