A campaign by local citizens has prompted local officials to consider whether the practice of adding fluoride to drinking water should be continued.
“There are health risks that are a result of water fluoridation and this information has been repressed,” said Albemarle resident Emerald Young at a meeting of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority on Tuesday.
Young has appeared this month before both city council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to express her concerns about fluoride, which she said poses a risk to public health.
“It’s the only chemical that’s put in the water to treat humans, and the other chemicals are used to treat the water,” Young said. “The public is being treated without adequate informed consent.”
RWSA executive director Thomas L. Frederick said he was not a doctor and could take no position, but he was aware of the concern.
“I know there are some doctors who are speaking up who are opposed to fluoridation practice,” Frederick said. “I will also say that the medical establishment still strongly supports adding 0.7 parts per million of fluoride to water supplies for dental health.”
Water fluoridation in Virginia began in 1952 when the town of Fries and the city of Lynchburg began adding fluoride to drinking water. Charlottesville has been putting fluoride in the water since the early 1950’s, and the practice was continued when the RWSA took over water treatment after it was formed in 1972.
Today, 95% of Virginians who receive water from public systems consume fluoride.
“Recent national studies indicate that water fluoridation will reduce dental decay in permanent teeth by approximately 17 to 40 percent,” reads a statement on the Virginia Department of Health’s website.
Frederick added that the state does not require localities to add fluoride to water.
“There is a provision that could allow this board to make a decision not to practice fluoridation,” Frederick said.
Jim Moore of the Virginia Department of Health had heard about Young’s claim and attended the RWSA meeting to answer questions. He said he wanted officials to be able to speak with Dr. Lisa Syrop, the person who coordinates fluoridation in the state.
“I do know that one of the concerns with fluoridation is that infants because of their body mass are consuming the same concentration [as adults],” Moore said. “But I’m in no position to comment on it.”
City Councilor David Brown said he was receptive to concerns that there is no choice but to drink fluoridated water.
“I think people have viewed this as alarmist,” Brown said. “But I think now people are coming back with some legitimate scientifically based concerns.”
Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said he thought it would be more appropriate for Syrop to first speak with elected boards directly.
Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority, said he also wanted his organization to be involved in the conversation.
In other news, Frederick also said the RWSA has applied for an additional extension of the permit that allows operation of the existing Ragged Mountain Dam. The current permit expires on November 30.
The State Water Control Board will decide whether to modify a permit to build a new earthen dam at their meeting on December 14, 2011.
The board will not choose an option for the Rivanna Pump Station until their next meeting on December 28, 2011. A consent decree with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality requires the RWSA to select a concept by the end of the year.
“We at the staff level are working in anticipation that [the board] will pick one of two alternatives,” Frederick said.
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